Temporary Assistant Chief Constable for West Yorkshire Police
Angela Williams tells us about her day to day life in the Force and why the police is a brilliant place to work for both men and women.
"Being a constable is great fun as it's 24/7, in uniform and you’re really in touch with what’s going on in the community. That’s what we all joined to do, all those years ago. It’s a wonderful grounding."
Did you always know you wanted to join the police?
No. I knew more about what I didn’t want to do that what I wanted to do. After working for a bank for a few months, I knew it wasn’t for me as I wanted to do something different every day, out in the community and I had a strong drive to be a public servant working with a cross section of communities. I am a ‘people person’ and very much enjoy spending time and engaging with different groups. In the Bank, it was all very mundane and target-driven regarding selling banking products and accounts. I’m very value-driven with a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong and I do like to support people in times of need. The public don’t often ring the police when they're having a good day! As a young PC in Chapeltown, I really did get to work with different people from different backgrounds, with different challenges.
What is the process to become part of the police?
It’s changed over the years. When I joined over 25 years ago, you had to have a minimum of five O-Levels (GCSEs) including English and Maths and you had to go on a two day assessment centre, which included a fitness test and a medical as well. The assessment centre had written exercises, role-plays, team exercises and also a presentation and formal interview. It’s changed now in that it’s still rigorous, but it’s in stages – you go for one stage and then if you pass, you are invited back for the next stage. At the minute, we are recruiting 600 officers this year – about 250 of these are actually new posts – 100 posts we had vacant and the other 250 posts are for people who are retiring in the current year. I suspect we will have high recruitment levels in the next financial year too (17/18) which is great for policing and the public of West Yorkshire.
How do you make the move into the higher ranks?
You have to do your exams, so there’s exams for Sergeant level and there’s exams for Inspector level that you have to pass. They’re written exams that you have to study really hard for, I studied really hard for a year for my Sergeant’s and another year for my Inspector’s. You can’t be a Constable and do your Inspector’s exams, it’s incremental, so you’re Constable, you study to be a Sergeant and pass that and you become a Sergeant and then you can start to study to be an Inspector. There’s a law-based exam first and then a role-play exam second, for both ranks. Then after you are qualified, you have to do a promotion board. That includes an application form, a presentation and an interview with a senior panel and they would say whether you made the grade or not.
In your current position, what are your responsibilities on a daily and weekly basis?
I’m responsible for policing the five districts in West Yorkshire: Kirklees, Calderdale, Wakefield, Leeds and Bradford. I have Senior Leadership Teams in all 5 Districts that are Chief Supt led. I’m responsible for the front line response to incidents of crime and anti-social behaviour in those areas. So there’s a team working really hard locally to be able to provide that level of service to members of the public and partners. I have daily operational meetings in the mornings to find out what’s happened in the previous 24 hours and what will happen in the next 24 hours. So some things we deal with are spontaneous like incidents that come in, but there are some things that are pre-planned like we might have an event on that we have to police, like a football match or a demonstration.
Throughout the week, I have meetings with my team around the budget, performance, how reviews are progressing, HR matters and such things. There’s certainly a lot of meetings to attend.
I then have meetings with partners as well, so I might have meetings with the Crown Prosecution Service or the Courts and I meet with the Council Chief Executives from all the five areas. I also meet with the public to find out how local policing is affecting them, and with our Police and Crime Commissioner who holds the Chief Constable to account regarding policing across West Yorkshire.
This position is obviously very different to being a constable, do you ever miss that role?
Yes sometimes, when I have lots of meetings or reports to read or emails to do! Being a constable is great fun as it's 24/7, in uniform and you’re really in touch with what’s going on in the community. That’s what we all joined to do, all those years ago. It’s a wonderful grounding.
What challenges have you faced over your career?
I think it’s been a challenge because I worked part-time from being a Sergeant to being a Superintendent so I worked part-time for 9 years. When I say part-time, that was four shifts a week instead of five, but that was challenge because I was really doing a full-time job in part-time hours so I was trying to do five days’ work in four days at the same time as bringing up a young family. I worked part-time from 1998 to 2007 - in 1998, when my daughter was born, there were not a lot of people working part-time at all. So in the early days it was a struggle because the few people that did work part time were all Constables whereas I was a Sergeant. I was the first Sergeant to work part-time in West Yorkshire police and then I was also the first part-time Inspector. It always felt like it was me who had to go first, but I did it and it worked out really well. Others were encouraged and followed on.
People sometimes have a perception that the police is very male-dominated, do you think sexism is something that is prominent in the police force?
No, I don’t. It’s very different now than when I joined 25 years ago. When I joined, women wore skirts and we were issued a handbag while men were given trousers and their full-sized truncheon. But we’ve moved on a million miles and we have been very much an equal opportunities employer for a long, long time. We really encourage women to join and, at the minute, we are recruiting nearly as many women as we are men. So we’ve got lots and lots of women in the organisation and we’ve got some fantastic women coming through being Sergeants and Inspectors and often it just takes one to see that it’s okay to do it and have a go. You read things all the time about senior women in jobs getting paid less than their male counterparts. This is not the case in policing. We get paid exactly the same, we do exactly the same role. What we need to do now though is to encourage female officers into areas where there aren’t a lot - such as firearms or roads policing. In some specialisms, you may get pockets where there are less women but it’s not that it’s not open to women, it’s just sometimes you need to get some interest and traction and show it’s an option for them. Others will follow.
What more do you think could be done to give women greater confidence about going into the police?
We’ve got lots of women in policing and high levels of interest which is fantastic. We do still have some gaps, so we don’t have a lot of black and ethnic minority women coming through, we have lots of white women. It’s about encouragement, it’s about open days, it’s about mentoring, it’s about getting women to see that it’s okay for them to come and join us. Sometimes it maybe their families who are nervous about them joining and we try to encourage their families to come on the open days too. Whilst I’m a police officer, we also have other great police staff roles that are open to all and we have the Special Constabulary and also the volunteers in policing – so again lots of options for all, men and women. We also have WYP BAWP, which is our local group of British Association of Women in Policing which is like a support network for women.
What is the best thing about being in the police?
The best thing is probably being part of a team and making a difference to our community and it being different every day. There’s lots and lots of challenges, it’s certainly not boring and it’s really rewarding; I’ve been here 25 years and it’s gone in a flash and I’d certainly do my 30 years, if not more. I genuinely love coming to work – my passion and energy levels for policing have not changed over the last 25 years.
Would you recommend it as a career to your children, even though there is an aspect of danger to the job?
I absolutely would, 110%. Obviously, on occasion, our officers do get assaulted and we do deal with difficult, potentially risky situations. But you have full training, you have your personal protective equipment so your stab vest, your baton, your cuffs, your CS spray. So actually, everything is done to mitigate that risk, to make it a safe working environment for officers. Of course it is more dangerous on the front line than if you work in an office - I currently work in an office now and our Constables and Sergeants and other staff roles, including our Specials, on the front line are incredibly brave and do a fabulous job. Officers do sometimes get assaulted but we do our absolute utmost to minimise those times and to look after one another.
What is one piece of advice you’ve picked up over professional life, that could apply to any career and you’d like to pass on?
Believe in yourself, challenge the norms and stick to your true values.
Interview by Laura Makin
School and Employment History
What did we learn from Angela?
You shouldn’t be afraid to challenge the norm – Angela had the courage to take on roles that hadn’t been done before
Working with the public is very rewarding – making a difference to her community is what Angela loves about her job
The job requires a lot of hard work – from being out in the community at events, with her local teams, with senior Partners, to important strategic meetings, it can seem almost nonstop
The police prides itself on its equality – male and female officers are paid exactly the same for the same role at all levels
Started A-Levels, and dropped out
Young Manager’s scheme, Yorkshire Bank
Joined the police aged 21:
[HQ] Professional Standards
Assistant Chief Constable
University of Cambridge
Master's: Criminology & Police Leadership