Hi Cressida...

 

How did you get to become Britain’s most senior female Police Officer and be awarded with the Queen’s Police Medal for distinguished service?

POLICE

MY STORY:

CRESSIDA DICK

I was very lucky. I was the third child of two

Oxford academics and grew up in a lovely family, surrounded by books and by people who talked about everything.

But my father died when I was 11

and it was tough for everyone. I saw

my mum’s challenges in bringing us

up without a partner. That said, I feel I

was very privileged. Lots of people don’t

have the advantages I had.

My mum always thought I could do

anything my big brother could, which was quite unusual in the 1960s and 1970s when a lot of girls were told you can do this, but you can’t do that.

Some were even told that boys were

better than girls. My mum would have

none of that in our household, and it

gave me a lot of confidence to try things

out and have a go.

At school I loved sport but, 

academically, I was not brilliant at anything. When I was 12, 13, 14, I was a bit lazy, and quite naughty as well. Not major crime, just silly things. I was, I think, led astray by others, but I was the one who always got caught. I was an unlikely future police officer.

When I went back to my old school

years later there was a newspaper

clipping saying something like ‘Local

girl is top cop.’ My old biology teacher

had scrawled across it: “Poacher turned

gamekeeper.”

When I was heading towards

A-levels I decided to take science

subjects rather than the arts

because of the self-discipline

involved. I knuckled down to

my studies, had some

good teachers, and got

decent grades. I went on

to university and I was

not the hardest working

student. But I got

involved in a lot of

outside activities; 

debating, sports,

especially rowing,

even though I am only

five foot four inches. I’m

sure that those activities

were just as important, if

not more so, than academic

study in terms of learning 

about life.

I had been interested in the

police for some time. At 16 or 17 I

had spent a week with my local

police force, going on patrol. I applied

to that same force before I left

university, but they turned me down and I never found out why. I wasn’t cross though, it was just disheartening and made me doubt myself a bit. After I got my degree I decided to go out and try something different, to find what really suited me, and to grow up a bit more.

I joined an accountancy firm in London. I was not terrible at it, and I enjoyed being in the City, but I quickly realised it was not the life for me. I applied to the Metropolitan Police, and they accepted me. 

Almost from the moment I arrived, I loved

policing. I loved dealing with the public, the company of my colleagues, the level of commitment, the occasional 

excitement.

I also realised

that, then as

now, the police

offered a lot of

different career

opportunities.

After 30 years I 

sometimes look

back and think of

the police careers

I could have had.

I would have loved

going into forensic

science or being a

dog handler or a DC

dealing with sexual

offences or armed

robbery. I always

imagined being a community

officer for five or six years and really getting to know that community. I always loved being on the streets.

But don’t get me wrong, I

loved the path I took, running operations, becoming a commander in the Met,

investigating gun crime. I have really enjoyed running specialist anti-terrorist

operations and dealing with the security and intelligence agencies and the military, which is fascinating. And I

was so honoured to be awarded a CBE for services to Policing in the 2015 New

Year Honours’ List. Like anything in life you have to know when it’s time to

move on once you have accomplished what you want in a profession. I did that in 2015 by joining the Foreign Office where I

am now a Director General.

Gradient Purple Blue

MY ADVICE TO YOU IS...

If you find yourself doing something you don’t like, that doesn’t suit you, the brave and right thing to do is to stop and do something else.

 

Finally, you may not think this now, but life is short. So if you find an area of work which makes you happy, makes you feel fulfilled, stick with it. Not every day will be brilliant but it’s worth it.

Hover to reveal!