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Officer and staff stories - Commander Dr Alison Heydari

Category: testimonial, black history month, BAME Inclusion, Staff Testimonial, BAME Diversity, BAME Network, black, black women, Bame recruitment, The Metropolitan Police

BAME

Commander Dr Alison Heydari

Commander Dr. Alison Heydari joined the Met earlier this year and now leads on neighbourhood policing and community engagement across London boroughs. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge that she has developed over her 20 year policing career.

As the most senior black female police officer in the UK, she is passionate about mentoring others to reach their full potential and celebrating diversity both inside and outside the Met. 

What inspired you to become a police officer?

I had never actually considered a career in policing until one day I was reading the newspaper and came across an ad recruiting for police officers. At the time I lived in Hampshire with my two daughters and husband, I was ready for a new challenge but had no idea what it would be. When I saw the ad I jokingly suggested it to my husband, to my surprise he said I should go for it. At first I was unsure, but the more I thought about it the more I realised that in every job I had ever had I always trying to make a difference in some shape or form. Becoming an officer would allow me to make a direct impact to those most in need.

When I announced to my mum and her friends that I was going to become a police officer, they were very supportive and had apparently always thought I would be well suited to the role. The local community was also extremely encouraging, there was a feeling that this was a really important step forward for us all. Back when I joined, 20 years ago, there was a lack of diversity within policing, I knew that I could create some real change inside as well as outside the service.

Having decided to pursue a career in policing, did you have to overcome any significant barriers?

My mum was a little bit worried about my safety but friends and family were really supportive and they have cheered me on all the way.

At the beginning, joining the police was a big lifestyle change but my husband and children were, and continue to be amazing and incredibly supportive. This has really helped me to face challenges and thrive in policing. I have also received help from many colleagues that I have worked with.

When you started your policing career did you ever expect to rise to the rank you are now?

I did lay out a 20 year plan with the end goal being to become an assistant chief constable, which I actually achieved in 19 years, just slightly ahead of schedule!

There are so many opportunities within policing that it is impossible to know the incredible journey you will take. You may end up in a role or working on a project that you never expected, for example I got the opportunity as a Staff Officer to travel the country seeing how different forces work, it was incredibly insightful.

My career so far has been nothing short of amazing, with the support of my family I have been able to achieve so much. In one organisation you have such a wide variety of jobs, you will never tire of working in the Met. The work can sometimes be challenging but it is always extremely interesting and rewarding.

What are the most memorable and proudest moments in your policing career?

Mentoring and coaching have always been really important to me, seeing people reach their potential and be successful in their career is something I find hugely rewarding. I am very proud of all the police officers and staff I have helped over the past 20 years.

While working at the Hampshire Constabulary I was the force lead for hate crime, I wanted to achieve a holistic way of looking at this type of offence. As a BCU (Basic Command Unit) Commander I was able to successfully collaborate with strategic partners, bringing them together to all agree to one collective pledge - we would not tolerate hate crime in the city we were responsible for. I was also able to work with others to change the policing response to hate crime and in turn better support staff and officers who were victims of this crime. Seeing the impact our work had not just externally but internally was very rewarding.

Getting justice for victims of crime and helping them find a voice, by either leading on the investigation myself or helping others to investigate, is always extremely rewarding. This has made a huge difference to individuals and communities and has helped to restore trust and confidence in policing.

Finally, I am really proud of having been able to contribute to the understanding of domestic abuse through my doctoral research. I feel very passionately that we should all do what we can to reduce the harm that domestic abuse causes. My research is helping to do just that by understanding the impact it has on those involved.

What would you say the most challenging aspects of policing are?

It can be disheartening when the public won't help us with our enquiries, you know that you are only there to try and protect people but it is not always viewed like that. This is what drives a lot of the community work I do, I want to improve trust and confidence in the police. Everyone should feel comfortable coming to us when they need our help or to share with us the information we need to help others. However, I understand why that may not be the case, so I am trying to change that.

What would be your top tip for success?

Recognise what your strengths are, in policing we talk a lot about recognising developmental areas but it is also important to understand where your strengths lie and to use those strengths.

Policing should thrive on difference, innovation only happens when people have different views and solutions. We must celebrate our differences, you should be proud of what makes you different to the next person.

Never shy away from a challenge, be proactive and take consider every opportunity that is offered to you.

If you could give one piece of advice to new recruits what would it be?

You will never know everything, there is no shame in that. After 20 years in policing I am still asking questions, learning and developing. Don’t be afraid to try something new, it keeps things interesting.

If you ever need help always reach out and ask, there is so much support available in the Met.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Internally it is an opportunity to celebrate differences, what makes us unique. We highlight the achievements of fellow black officers, there is some incredible talent out there, but this celebration should not be limited to a month. We need to carry the learnings and development from this month throughout the rest of the year.

Externally there are so many voices out there in the black community that we need to be working with and listening to. Black History Month offers the opportunity to intensify the engagement within these communities and organisations. We should not lose momentum after this month, instead we should continue to nurture these relationships so year on year we are stronger together.

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