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HLN Meets…Zoë Hingston, Northumbria Police

We caught up with Inspector Zoë Hingston to talk about what it’s like being a woman in the police, her experience legislating during the Black Lives Matter movement and her fight for equality for underrepresented communities.

Written by Rachael Nichol
Published 04.08.2021

What inspired you to join the force?

When I joined the police aged 25 years old it was something that I never imagined I would do. After initially pursuing a career within the law to be a solicitor, I realised that I didn’t get the fulfillment that I thought I would. I wanted a career that would be more varied and not having to do the traditional 9 till 5.

I also felt strongly that I wanted to help people and make a positive difference in people’s lives. I didn’t know anyone in the police, so it really was a leap of faith, but I don’t regret it at all!

Police officers are problem-solvers and sometimes lifesavers which is something not to be underestimated and is fundamentally what makes it so rewarding.

What is your current role within the police and what sort of work do you do?

 I’ve had many different roles since becoming a Police Officer including frontline response, working as a Neighbourhood officer and Custody Sergeant to name a few but right now I’m the Positive Action Lead.

My role means supporting and encouraging those from underrepresented and diverse backgrounds into the force whether that be a staff member, police officer or volunteer.

 As a woman, were you not intimidated to join the police?

Being a woman in the police is something that even to this day some people outside of policing have a view on, whether we can be as efficient as men and whether we are strong enough or tough enough. The simple answer is that my colleagues and I are.

Being in the police isn’t just about being strong, it takes emotional intelligence, resilience, teamwork and other skills. It can seem hard trying to prove yourself and challenging those who still believe that policing is for men, but policing has changed significantly and there are so many inspirational female roles models.

Northumbria Police is fully committed to being representative of our communities so that means ensuring that everyone gets a fair opportunity. My main goal is to make it better for those coming behind me so that they can also achieve it.

How have you worked your way up the ranks?

Working your way through the ranks involves taking exams, interviews and experience. In order to get where I am now, I’ve taken national exams and been interviewed internally by my Force and that is the process.

Going for promotion isn’t easy and you need to be motivated to learn and able to lead a team and support others to be the best they can be. Being of rank in the police doesn’t mean that you stop needing to have the skills you acquired when you begin, it just means that you can help influence change more and support others.

 

Can you talk us through your work with the Northumbria Police Ethnic Minority Association?

NPEMA is a staff association that we have within the organisation. It celebrates the diversity of our members and ensures that we are truly inclusive of everyone and what they need, to be who they are.  We hold regular meetings, discussions and share individual experiences so that people can learn from each other as, after all, no one knows everything.

The association also acts as a critical friend to the organisation to make sure that everyone can thrive regardless of background. I’m honored to be the Chair and do not take the responsibility lightly as I know how much it means to people to feel supported and that someone is there championing their needs.

How are you working towards fighting for equality and diversity?

The work that I do within my day-to-day job, my role as Chair of NPEMA and my role as General Secretary of the National Black Police Association means fighting for equality and diversity sits at the heart of what I do. It is also at the forefront of policing in Northumbria.

I’m using my voice honestly and positively to talk about my experiences and help elevate those around me to speak their truth. I actively look for solutions to make things better. I love that in my job I get to speak to people from all walks of life and in doing that I get to learn about what matters to them and what I can learn from this to ensure that within my job I am taking into account lived experience.

Being in the force during the Black Lives Matter movement, can you tell us what your experience was like?

Mentally it was difficult to process everything, and it felt very raw in terms of the issues that came to the forefront. It was everywhere and you couldn’t not hear or read about it and I could see so many people were affected by it from all backgrounds.

Racism is something that’s always been there in society and many people like me have different experiences. There were a lot of discussions that came in the following months and I felt it was important to be part of those conversations from both a healing point of view and to help others who were genuinely reaching out to understand more about the subject.

 

We’ve recently covered LGBTQ+ Policing and Crime consultation, what other ways are working to improve equality and diversity?

We’re looking at this across the board to make a difference that’ll really reflect the changing times. Our focus on recruitment means that we are fully committed to making sure everyone feels that if they want to work for Northumbria Police there aren’t barriers in their way and that we are having conversations with people who historically may not have seen policing as a career of choice.

We are also using training to give our staff confidence to further support people to ensure their needs are met. This is one way we use staff associations to help us and make sure that we leave no stone unturned and that everyone has a voice.

What would you say to any women who want to join the force but are worried about receiving abuse? 

Do your research and understand what the job is. Being a police officer takes hard work and determination, but I honestly believe that lots of people are more than capable. Speak to officers you see or pop into a local station and have a chat with someone, then you can find out what it really is like.

I can’t say that you won’t face racial or homophobic abuse as, sadly, we know that as police officers there’ll be occasions when dealing with hate incidents, that we’ll find ourselves in positions where we face being abused. But that is not tolerated, and that is why we have strong processes in place to deal robustly with such incidents and support for those officers and staff who are on the receiving end.

 

If you’ve been inspired by Zoë’s story and are interested in joining the police visit their website for available vacancies.

 

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