Case study

Detective constable — Rosanna Walker

Rosanna studied the BA Applied Psychology and Criminology at the University of Brighton, followed by the Graduate Diploma in Law at the University of Sussex, before joining Essex Police via Police Now's National Graduate Leadership Programme

What's your current job title?

I'm now a detective constable, though I started out as a police constable.

How did you get your job?

After completing my degree and spending some time working in the care sector as a healthcare assistant, support worker, and a dementia lead support coordinator, I joined Essex Police through Police Now's National Graduate Leadership Programme.

How does the Police Now graduate scheme work?

It's a salaried, two-year programme that trains graduates to become leaders in neighbourhood policing.

You begin your training at Police Now's training academy before you join your police force for the remainder of the two-year programme. Over the course of the two years, you'll continue to receive support from Police Now and your force. There are various assignments to complete as you work towards your Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice.

Each police force will be structured slightly differently, with some placing you on the response team initially, for example - but you'll ultimately be working as a neighbourhood police officer, coming up with innovative ideas to tackle crime and support victims within your community.

Tell us about some of the things you've been involved in.

While on the programme I worked as a neighbourhood police officer in Colchester, where I led on several key pieces of work over the course of the two years.

A project that stands out is the work I did to tackle bicycle theft during my first year on the programme, due to a significant increase in these incidents across Colchester town during the summer months. I implemented targeted patrols in theft hotspots and worked with local shops, the local councillor and the Cycle Network to raise awareness of the issues and encourage the public to purchase more secure bike locks and record serial numbers. We also identified a second-hand shop that was selling stolen bicycles and ensured that officers intervened. Bicycle theft in the area dropped by 50% by November 2017 compared to 2016. A total of eight people were charged with theft or handling stolen bicycles, with a further five receiving a community resolution.

After graduating the programme, I worked as a temporary sergeant in the force's domestic abuse team, gaining valuable leadership experience and working alongside some fantastic colleagues. My job was to risk assess our domestic incidents and set actions to support the victims and their families and gather evidence to get cases to court. Sometimes the evidence just isn't there, so I learned ways we could still support victims through working with partner support agencies or using court orders.

Since then, I've moved into Colchester's Criminal Investigations Department (CID), where I was accredited as a detective constable. I realised I wanted to train as a detective and support some of our most vulnerable victims in Essex, after completing an internal attachment within CID while still on the Police Now programme. I've been in the department for about two and a half years now, working alongside my colleagues to investigate serious and complex crimes.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It allows me to help people and really make a difference in society. It's a job with real impact. Victim satisfaction means so much to me and really drives all my policing. Even if we don't prosecute, I want to do my best, so I know the victim is safe and impressed with the service they receive.

For example, a case I worked when I joined the team was in response to a knife attack in an Asda car park. A man had approached a woman and her small child and threatened them with a knife, trying to force them into the car. The woman managed to scream and the man fled, but we were able to make a swift arrest.

The victim suffered with severe PTSD following the incident and I wanted her to get the justice she deserved, and to protect other people in the community from this offender. I lead the investigation, went to every court hearing and worked closely with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and counsel to provide the necessary evidence and argue our case - all while offering support to the victim. The suspect pleaded guilty and was convicted to four years in prison. The phone call to the victim to tell her gave me the biggest job satisfaction. It meant she could get on with her life and reinforced the outstandingly positive impact you can have on a person's life in this job.

What are the challenges?

In a neighbourhood policing role there's never a 'quiet day' - as there will always be something that needs doing. Similarly, In CID you're often working across multiple investigations at once, and you have to carefully manage a demanding workload.

There's a lot of responsibility from day one, and although you're given the chance to really help those in need and better your community, there will also be times when you don't always get such positive outcomes, or you end up witnessing distressing scenes. It does take a lot of emotional resilience.

How has your role developed and what support have you received?

Joining the police through the Police Now programme has allowed me to gain a wide range of experience, not just through my role as a neighbourhood officer - which is so varied in itself - but also through the external secondment with the Home Office that Police Now facilitated, where I worked for four weeks as the assistant private secretary to the minister for policing. My force also facilitated an internal attachment within CID, which ultimately made me realise I wanted to move into CID permanently.

Since graduating the programme and moving into CID, I've also worked with Police Now as a syndicate lead at their National Graduate Leadership Programme training academy. This was a challenging role as it was during the peak of the first COVID-19 lockdown, so a lot of the work was done digitally or in 'bubbles'. However, I really enjoyed supporting and training my new Police Now colleagues and it was a great chance for me to refresh a lot of my own learning too.

What are your future career ambitions?

I plan to stay within policing - the job is interesting and varied, but most of all it allows me to help people and make a real impact in society.

My next step would be to go for promotion from detective constable to detective sergeant, so I'll work hard this year to achieve that.

What advice would you give to others considering joining the police?

Shift work can be demanding, and it will take some time to get the work/life balance right. But we now have so many support groups and great line managers that help where they can. As my first sergeant said to me, 'think of this career as a marathon, not a sprint'. You have to pace yourself as you don't know what you'll be walking into tomorrow.

Police Now taught me to be bold and just do it. That's how you'll leave a legacy in policing. If you have an idea, do your research. If it still looks like a good idea, take action. There will be a lot of obstacles and 'walls of no', but you have to see past that and have the confidence to continue. Never settle for 'because we've always done it that way'. There are always people willing to help you in this job, of all ranks and roles. As long as you're trying to do the right thing for the right reasons, you can't go far wrong.

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