The perception of the police as a male-dominated and masculine service is set to be challenged by a new documentary series about the women holding frontline roles.
The Shift: Women on the Force will delve into the professional and personal lives of hard-working women across all levels of West Yorkshire Police, from PCs to trainee investigators.
It will explore the challenges they face in their day-to-day roles, while offering insight into how the demanding job impacts their personal lives and their loved ones as well as their own mental health.
Among those set to be featured in UKTV’s six-part series are PC Gemma Sharman, a 31-year-old officer who is one of just two female officers on a Neighbourhood Policing Team in Bradford.
She speaks openly about her experience of post-traumatic stress disorder after attending a suicide incident and the counselling and support that enabled her to return to her role.
Chief Constable Dee Collins said: “From a service that has in the past been portrayed as male-dominated and masculine, we’ve seen a sea change and today some the UK’s most high-profile senior police officers are women. But clearly we need to be enabling more women to fulfil their careers in policing.
“Inclusion is really important to West Yorkshire Police and a vital ingredient for the future policing of our communities and I am really keen to build a more diverse workforce.”
The force has more than 1,600 female police officers on duty, ranging from Immediate Response Teams to CID, Neighbourhood Policing or operational units.
Recent figures show the proportion of female police officers in England and Wales has increased from seven per cent in 1977 to 30 per cent in 2018 – but men still dominate senior positions by over 80 per cent.
Helen Nightingale, senior commissioning editor at UKTV, said: “We hope this ground-breaking documentary series really makes you stop and think about the people behind the uniform.
“Each episode offers a rare insight into the incredible challenges these brave officers face every single day, and how the intensity of their job can have a significant impact not only on themselves but on their loved ones too.”
The impact on family life is highlighted by the experiences of 48-year-old PC Laura Gargett, who talks about how her commitment to the job and the irregular hours contributed to the breakdown of her marriage.
A mother-of-two and member of the Bradford District response team that handles 999 calls, she is seen dealing with street disturbances on the city’s street and taking a new recruit under her wing.
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Ms Nightingale added: “An entire series exploring policing through the eyes of women on the force hasn’t been done before and it really offers a unique perspective.
“These inspiring women put themselves in danger at the frontline, fighting to ensure all of our safety, and it’s often a thankless job that people take for granted. We hope this shines a light on all the hard work they do both on the streets of West Yorkshire and behind the scenes to keep us all safe.”
The series will be aired on the W channel every Friday at 10pm from March 15.