The Metropolitan Police firearms squad is to launch a ‘positive action’ campaign to recruit more women to the job, after it emerged that just 3% of firearms officers are currently female.
Chief superintendent Bill Tillbrook, head of the specialist CO19 unit, said he wanted to break down false perceptions that only men could handle the highly dangerous job, and would draw on women’s “different approach” to negotiating with criminals.
Only 15 officers in the squad of 545 are female.
“Just walking into a place full of men must make women self-conscious,” Tillbrook told Personnel Today. “But if you send white men to every call you’re not going to get the same breadth of approach to every situation than if you’ve got a diverse approach.”
A series of ‘insight days’ inviting female officers currently serving in the Met to experience a day in the life of a firearms officer, have a go at shooting weapons and practise fitness tests, will be used to encourage women to apply for the roles.
“We’ve put a programme in place to bring women in. It starts with the insight days down at our training centre, and we assign women female mentors from within the branch during the joining process,” he said.
Tillbrook said he could only use measures to attract women up to the point of recruitment, but could not advertise for women only as it would “go beyond positive action” into discriminatory territory.