Encouraged by the sizeable pay increase and high divorce rate, Chris
Clement-Green decided that answering a recruitment ad for the Thames
Valley Police was just the thing for a much-needed overhaul of her life.
It was 1984, a time before political correctness, at the height of the
miner’s strike and in the middle of five years of race riots. Perfect timing.
Expanding her police knowledge, her love life, and undeterred by sexist
remarks and chauvinists she decided to make her mark, while kissing
goodbye to her previous dull and conventional existence.
Chris captures the colourful characters and humour in many of the
situations she found herself in, but the job had it’s serious side, too. She
was at the centre of a riot in Oxford, during which her life was saved by
a young black man she had previously stopped and questioned, and was
attacked by a man with mental-health problems who was a consequence
of the decision to move ‘care’ into ‘the community’.
Consistently coming up against the effects of Margaret Thatcher’s
politics; from miner’s picket-lines, covering (badly) for striking paramedics
during the ambulance dispute to everyday drunken disturbances caused
by the haves (Yuppies and Oxford students) and the have-nots (alcoholic
homeless and unemployed youth), Chris also tackled sex crimes and abuse.
An often humorous, always candid and no-holds-barred reflection of the
life of a policewoman in the 80s, this book offers a personal account of a
life in uniform, while touching on the Newbury Bypass demos, the effects
of Scarman, the Hungerford Massacre, the bombing of Libya,
Guest Post by Chris Clement-Green
I decided to write Into the Valley, a memoir about my experiences in Thames Valley Police (TVP), for two reasons: People have always been interested in the work of the emergency services – we see life at its rawest and impact on people when they are at their most vulnerable – but I couldn’t find any police memoirs from the female perspective, none! The second reason is that I found myself policing Thatcher’s Britain, a time of massive social conflict and upheaval that is still echoing down the decades. As I write this post the following topics, which are all covered in my book, appeared on last night’s news: the legalisation of drugs (Northumberland’s Police Commissioner); sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace (Harvey Weinstein); the abuse of children (murder of an eighteen-month old toddler by her step-dad); institutional racism within the justice system and, with the roll-out of Universal Credit, the old, old story of the haves and the have-nots. When I first joined the police we may have used typewriters and telexes instead of hand-held computers, but the problems remain the same.
This may sound rather pessimistic, but Into the Valley charts a decade of real change and enlightenment within the police. When I joined in 1984, I joined a Police Force full of militaristic machismo, open sexism, racism and homophobia. When I retired sixteen years later, it was from a far more inclusive Police Service, which not only now recognised the diverse elements of the communities they policed, but had started to cater for them too. The whole justice system still has some way to go in matters of institutional racism, but at least we don’t have to protest en-mass in this country that ‘black lives matter’.
Female officers have now achieved a genuine equality of opportunity in ‘the job’. On telly Juliet Bravo gave way to the formidable DCI Tennison and on the real streets TVP itself is led by a woman, with the only male bastion left, the top job in London, falling in February this year to Cressida Dick, a former Thames Valley Superintendent. There is still sexism and bullying, but the new grievance processes I was part of in the early nineties, are now so deeply ingrained that the Chief Constable of Scotland is currently suspended and under investigation for behaviour that was routine in my early career.
Readers tell me Into the Valley is ‘eye-opening’ and that my education becomes their education; they are surprised that the social issues and ‘isms’ I encountered were still so blatant in the mid-eighties. But the thing is, they’re still around today and in some cases, for example cyber-bullying, sexual-grooming and people-trafficking, they are getting worse thanks to the internet and social media. But the latter also means we are slowly becoming more aware of what is happening around us, and society seems more prepared to get involved in the solutions. Now we believe victims, we fight their corner and where this social consciousness flourishes, so will hope.
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