We thought there was no better way to kick off our discussion on community by talking to someone who plays an active role in their own. Tricia Dowling is a full-time nanny, part time special constable – which means that she investigates crimes and makes arrests in between caring for two small children.
I decided to become a Special Constable when I returned from working in New York – I had been involved with helping the NY police force in the aftermath of 9/11. I did various voluntary roles, like cooking lunch for 250 bomb squad officers who had no leave. Back in England, I realised I had some spare time and wanted to do something unrelated to my day job (I work as a nanny), and I thought it would be a good way of meeting new people. I would have liked to have been a police officer when I left school but there was been a height minimum in Scotland of 5 foot 6 inches – a clever way to keep women out of the Scottish force back then!
A Special Constable does the same role as a regular PC but on a voluntary basis – we do a minimum of 16 hours per month. I spent 23 Sundays training at Hendon Police College, and now I police Haringey, which is a very diverse borough with lots of different cultures and faiths. Special Constables have full police powers and can arrest people, investigate crime and assist with all aspects of policing. I have also policed big events such as the royal wedding, the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee.
I feel proud when I can help someone who has been a victim of crime, and it is very rewarding knowing that you’ve apprehended a suspect and made the streets of Haringey a little safer for the community. But it’s also sad at times – when you are dealing with serious accidents or sudden deaths, for example. It’s very upsetting when you have to tell victims’ families the news.
At the moment being a Special Constable is the easiest (though not guaranteed) route into the Metropolitan Police. Though many of my friends want to join full-time, I don’t because I love my job looking after two children, aged two and four.
Why is community important to you?
Community gives people a sense of belonging. It means you have people you can share ideas with and spend time with that you might not meet otherwise.
What do you see when you look in the mirror?
When I look in the mirror I sometimes see a calm, confident police officer who is taking charge of the situation… and other times I see a nanny frantically trying to fit everything into the day and keep two children safe and secure. But I also see someone who is very happy with the way her life has worked out – and is looking forward to the next challenge.