TWO sisters are smashing stereotypes and making Northamptonshire safer while they do it.
Sergeants Torie Harrison and Georgie Watts are showcasing how being a woman in policing can be rewarding, challenging and offer real career prospects.
Georgie, 29, joined when she was 20 and says: “I’ve basically grown up through policing. My parents were both cops, and my sister and husband are too.”
Torie, 28, who worked at Tesco from the age of 16 before becoming a police officer, says: “I’ve been a police officer for six years and was a Special Constable for a year or so before that whilst completing a degree and working in the FCR as a call handler. I’ve been a sergeant for four years and successfully completed my detectives exam last year. I’m a hostage negotiator and currently work within CID.”
Talking about what it first felt like, Georgie recalls: “One of my first patrols saw me chasing a burglar down an unknown alleyway, whilst his accomplice released a dog that then started chasing me! I managed to catch the burglar and avoid the dog. When the other officers arrived and found me covered in cuts with ripped trousers, I wasn’t quite willing to admit that it was because I’d had such a spectacular fall down some steps, whilst my legs ran faster than my brain, that the burglar actually stopped to ask if I was okay! His mistake, I arrested him for burglary! He went to prison for it, and it taught me that the best jobs don’t always make you look cool!”
Torie says: “I enjoy helping people and solving investigations and I can’t think of any other job that would offer the variation and experiences.”
Referring to how it feels having a sister in the service, Georgie says: “It’s amazing to have a best friend who completely understands and can offer valuable advice and support.”
When asked whether being a woman in the police worried her, Georgie said: “I never had concerns about being a woman and being a police officer. I was the only female on my old team, but I never really thought about gender differences. It’s so important to me that women in policing support each other and understand that there is room for everyone at the table if you work hard.”
For Torie, the worries centre around family life: “I only know a very limited number of men that have taken long-term paternity leave, so as much as having a child is a joint decision, staying at home with a baby is often something done by the woman, though not exclusively. The idea of having to make a choice of progressing my career or spending a long period of time at home, being a good mother, is daunting and something that plays on my mind. There are some women in higher ranks, and they’re brilliant, but not enough and this needs to change.”
Speaking about some of the challenges of the role, Georgie says: “I’ve attended some really traumatic incidents over the years, like telling a mother her child had died after we had gone out to her nine-year-old in cardiac arrest. These types of incidents stay with you and I really recommend people utilise the mental health support available if they are finding things tough. I had counselling through the police before and found it invaluable.
Georgie also briefly mentions her personal struggles: “I was diagnosed as autistic and having ADHD last year and have been on an intense journey working through that. Learning how to play to my strengths and overcome my areas of struggle has been an experience.”
Torie also speaks candidly about dealing with trauma as a police officer: “I’ve had days at work when I’ve gone home crying my eyes out, but I’ve also had days when I’ve never laughed so much. The job I found most challenging was a fatal collision, which transpired to be a police officer from another force, whom I had been at university with. I found his phone and saw the photo of him on the screen saver and got really upset in front of all the other services present.
“But, the reassuring thing was how kind everyone was. The controller rang me and just let me have a cry to him over the phone whilst I walked away for a few minutes. It’s cliché, but you do feel like you’re part of a family when you’re going through any challenging situations.”
Asked what advice she would give to anyone considering a career in policing, Georgie says: “The job is what you make it. Policing is a life-long career with amazing opportunities and experiences.
Torie’s advice is: “I genuinely believe that the police is a life career and should still be seen as such. So, if you want to go and see the world, or work abroad for a year, or anything that would remove you from policing in the future, do it before you join, I didn’t and it’s my only regret.”
Pressed good naturedly about who the better officer is, Georgie responds: “Torie! She’s so intelligent and grounded. I definitely rely on her to reality check me if I’m either fighting a losing battle or not standing up for myself enough. She really understands people and takes the time to see the bigger picture.”
Rather unsurprisingly, Torie’s response is: “Georgie. She’s spot on. She has so much passion to help people and has a really intricate knowledge about all things policing. I frequently call her to second guess my decisions and she will always steer me in the right direction. We both sat our Sergeants boards at the same time and people were asking me how I’d feel if Georgie passed and I didn’t, which seemed an odd concept to me because, if she had passed and I didn’t, I still would have been proud and excited for her either way. Thankfully we did both pass.”