Female Police Association

As part of our series highlighting the histories of BTP related support groups, Chief Inspector Melissa Cunningham details the FPA.

The Female Police Association (FPA) was formed in April 2016 – the original committee consisted of Chief Inspector Melissa Cunningham (Chair), Police Sergeant Cheryl Bainbridge (Vice Chair), Supt Alison Evans (Secretary) and Chief Inspector Jo Cash (Social Secretary). Jo decided to stand down from the committee at the end of 2018 due to starting a new family but has recently returned, whilst Cheryl moved to a Home Office police force for her personal development at the end of 2019. Melissa and Alison are still in post at the time of writing this. The FPA have 230 members, however a lot of the work the association does extends beyond the membership to reach out to all females in the force, as well as male colleagues (e.g. paternity, prostate cancer, etc). There is also a Female Support page on Facebook which helps to reach females that do not want to officially sign up to FPA. In October 2016, there was a formal launch of FPA at FHQ which included guest speakers and a cake sale for charity.

As well as informing policy and setting strategic objectives, FPA were keen to hold events throughout each year to promote females in BTP and to also increase the membership. Whilst the Covid19 pandemic has hindered this in the last 12 months, these events have included:

100 years of Women in Policing – November 2017

Charlotte Vitty (Chief Executive BTPA) & DCC Hanstock – mad dash around the UK and in London (followed by Quiz) – International Women’s Day March 2018

Big Rail Diversity Challenge – June 2018

Muddy Run – October 2018

Wellbeing Day (The Unmentionables) – October 2018

FPA Awards Ceremony (Birmingham) – International Women’s Day – March 2019

Big Rail Diversity Challenge – June 2019

Imposter syndrome session – July 2019

Wellbeing Day (CLPS & Birmingham) – December 2019

Menopause Conference (Manchester) – January 2020

Women in Policing Event (Blundell St) International Women’s Day – March 2020

Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign – October 2020

In June 2019, three BTP staff were nominated and received Highly Commended Awards from the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) for their very different work in supporting women in the service.

-Linda-Jane Evans for her work supporting transgender communities and her efforts to educate BTP’s employees on issues surrounding gender identity.

-Matthew Theaker for being a HeForShe ally; working proactively to encourage females to join the Specialist Ops teams

-Iona Jackson-Benjamin for her work in developing and delivering Positive Action development programmes especially for women at BTP

FPA have also been successful in establishing 3 strong sub-networks which reach out to both members and non-members of the association, these are:

Maternity Network – this was originally started on L’ Area by Judith Ericksen in 2006. FPA were able to roll this out force wide in December 2016 (initially led by Police Sergeant Nicola Outen and now Police Inspector Ritu Sharma). The Network has a buddy system and Ritu has recently extended this to include ‘Brew Mondays’.

Menopause Network – this was created in April 2018 led by Police Sergeant Kim Dight (who has recently left BTP), Supt Alison Evans, PS Carol Peters and PC Nicolina Reynolds.

Job Related Fitness Test WhatsApp group – this was created in Jan 2018 and has been an essential support for females who have struggled with the mandatory fitness test. Approximately 50 female officers have been taken off Temporary Duty Restriction and returned to front line duties due to the support of the JRFT Group.

An ongoing theme for the FPA has been the Recruitment-Retention-Progression of females. In March 2018 we surveyed all females in the force to understand the key issues they face and the findings from this survey have informed the work we have done from July 2018 onwards. One noticeable change has been the increased representation of females on promotion panels, which we still strive to ensure occurs at all ranks. In addition to this, from April 2018 we have reached out to the majority of female leavers by writing to them to understand the real reasons why they have exited the organisation. Findings from speaking to leavers informed the Chief Officer Group and led to Chief Inspector Lorna McEwan working on a bespoke project around female retention in BTP.

The greatest achievement of the FPA, which sets it aside from other ‘female support groups’ that have gone before, is undoubtedly it’s longevity and it’s recognition within the force. It has been established for 5 years and has the greatest membership of all the current support associations – there is definitely a legacy which will hopefully still be strong in years to come. At the time of writing BTP are the most under represented force in the country for females so the work of FPA to support and inspire those coming into the organisation is key.