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Det Supt Katie Harber - 'There's no such thing as a typical cop'

Blog post   •   Mar 08, 2018 13:06 GMT

Det Supt Katie Harber

Detective Superintendent Katie Harber joined the Met in 2003, aged 24. While male family members were and are in the police, she is the only woman from the family to join 'The Job'.

"Dad was a Home Beat [safer neighbourhoods] Officer in Croydon for 18 years and we lived on his ward. Team breakfasts were frequently round our kitchen table. I loved the stories and the obvious difference he made, with people regularly calling at the house for advice."

Katie did work experience at Surrey Police during her GCSEs and A Levels. After studying History at the University of Oxford, Katie considered becoming a barrister, but work experience at Chambers proved to her that policing would be more of a professional challenge.

She started in the job at Westminster and then Camden. In 2006, Katie joined the High Potential Development Scheme and was posted to the Flying Squad as Detective Sergeant in 2008. Over the next eight years, Katie worked as a staff officer at the Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), ran the Public Order Crime Team and joined Royalty and Specialist Protection on the Inspector to Superintendent Scheme.

In 2016, she applied to return to local policing as the Detective Superintendent at Barnet.

"I adore my current role - it's been the most fulfilling yet.

"What I love about policing is trying to solve problems in a world that isn't perfect and never will be. We need to focus policing and criminal justice responses around people and their complicated situations, trialing different ways of doing things to see how they work in the real world."

Katie is starting a Masters in Applied Criminology and Police Management at Cambridge in April to explore exactly that.

"As well as my role on Barnet, I'm the Met lead for Abuse and Neglect of Vulnerable Adults. It's a new role for the Met and an area of safeguarding where crime is hugely underreported. I am also a Trustee of a new charity (Liveunlimited.org.uk) helping children in care and care leavers follow their ambitions."

What advice would you give to women who are interested in pursuing a career within the police?

There's no such thing as a typical cop or a typical day in the life of a police officer. Policing is hugely diverse and you can really find your niche no matter what makes you tick.

Do some research to really understand all the different roles in policing. Try and get some work experience, you can't beat talking to a range of officers or police staff to understand the day-to-day realities of the role.

If you join, take responsibility for your own development, actively seek opportunities and be demanding about developing a career and life which you love. It's a tough but incredibly rewarding career and there is a great group of people to support you.

Are there any women that you have met throughout your career who have inspired you - inside or outside the Met?

As a student, I wrote to Thames Valley Police asking for some work experience shadowing a senior police officer. They wrote back and said their Superintendent for Oxford town centre, Cressida Dick, would be happy to help. I spent one day a week with her for two months - after that I was hooked!

AC Helen Ball was also so patient with me when I was reluctant to go on to the fast track scheme. She talked me through it and reassured me that going up the ranks didn't have to mean losing touch with front-line policing, something I was really concerned about. I'm so glad I listened to her advice.

But it's not just women. Retired DAC Pete Terry, was integral in pushing me to apply for early promotion at the start of my career. Without him, I definitely wouldn't be where I am today.

What do you think the Met can do to help more women get into leadership roles?

It would be great if we could formally develop long term partnering with schools and universities to encourage young women to see policing as a career choice.

Formal mentoring is not always the answer, great mentoring works through mutual affinity, we need to focus on where this can happen naturally.

We still need to be more creative with flexible and part time working and stop seeing it as a predominantly female issue. Until men are seen as just as likely to request it, part time working risks never being seen as truly equal.