Clare Logie interviews Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick, of Police Scotland. With the crucial role that the safety, security and wellbeing of the nation has to play across all these areas, and in the context of police reform and the launch of the single national law enforcement service, Police Scotland, on the 1st April this year, we thought this was the ideal opportunity to speak with Scotland’s most senior female police officer.
Born in London and married to a Scot, Rose actually began her working life in the private sector, in the City of London. At 27, disillusioned by a sense that making money for shareholders was not giving her a sense of professional satisfaction, Rose decided her personal and professional values were better suited to the public sector. Her friends were taken aback when she announced she was joining the police, as well as taking a significant pay cut, as one pointed out: “you’ll have to wear awful flat black lace up shoes…” 26 years later, as Scotland’s most senior female police officer, in charge of 12,500 cops, Rose waves a foot in the air and cheerfully points out “Still wearing them!”
On joining the service, Rose spent 11 years in England’s smallest force, the City of London Police, before switching across to the Met(ropolitan Police), the UK’s largest. Her 14 years in the Met saw her cover roles in territorial and local policing before retiring, after this 25 years of service, as a Deputy Assistant Commissioner. Her retirement lasted four weeks.
On 1st April 2013, Scotland’s previous eight forces were brought together under a single, national structure: Police Scotland. Chief Constable Sir Stephen House is supported in the Executive team by four Deputy Chief Constables (DCCs), of which Rose is one. It’s a huge job, and it’s a really huge job for someone who is supposed to be retired, so the first question has to be, in the nicest possible way: “why are you doing this?” or, to be slightly more professional about it, “what drew you to apply for this role?”
RF “I actually joined the police at a later age than many of my peers, at that time, people mainly joined directly from school or from university. So I had always planned to retire after 25 years, which is what I did. My husband is Scottish and our two daughters consider themselves ethnically Scottish, so we had planned to move back here at some point. I had thus always maintained an interest in Scottish policing (which is technically separate from the England & Wales forces), as well as more generally having been a proponent of creating larger, rather than smaller, forces down south. When this role came up, I just knew that if I wasn’t involved, I’d find myself sitting in a café sometime ranting about it, so I had to get involved.”
CL Was it purely the local policing role you wanted, or would you have wanted any of the DCC roles?
RF “I wanted this job. My background at every level has been spent in local policing and I am absolutely passionate about it. Trust and confidence in the police is borne out of people’s direct and local experience, so if we don’t get that right, whatever else we do well won’t have the degree of impact it could otherwise have. When I knew at 26, 27 that I wanted to run away and join the public sector, I didn’t know anything about policing, but I happened to live a couple of miles from Broadwater Farm at the time of the 1985 riot. I saw that when policing goes wrong, something like that can happen, so I joined the service with a desire to make sure, as far as I could, that it goes right.”
CL Why should people feel positive about the creation of a single police force across the whole of Scotland?
RF “I genuinely believe this is absolutely the best outcome for Scotland. People will effectively have the best of both worlds: they will keep their local representation and behind that, they will have access to the best of every specialist and technical service, wherever they are in the country, whereas currently some forces have greater access to the latter than others. This consistent approach ensures that everyone can have access to the best of everything.”
CL Would you encourage more women to join the police?
RF “Absolutely. I would encourage anyone, from a broad range of life experiences, to join. Currently around 1/3 of people coming in to the service are women. There are relatively few women in senior positions, but it’s a career that takes 20+ years before you get to those leadership roles, so we will see more in the future”
CL Do you believe then, that the relatively few numbers of women is a legacy issue that will naturally correct itself over time, or does it need some element of intervention, to improve the balance?
RF “It will get better, but not quickly enough! I do believe we need to do more work around diversity in general. It is important not to ghetto-ise this as ‘women’s issues’ it’s not about women per se, it’s about values, ethics, emotional intelligence and a range of leadership styles. We need to operate beyond existing boundaries and we need a range of experience and style to enable us to do that. My other concern is that if we don’t do some active work around it, then at best any developments will be cyclical rather than consistently improving. We need to work actively and effectively on these issues.”
CL Many female cops seem to claim in the media that DCI Jane Tennison of ‘Prime Suspect’ fame, was based on them. Do you see any traits or experiences in her that you recognise, or is she a myth?
RF “We have to remember that this character was around in the early 90s. It was a different time. I have to say that much of what she experienced at that time, was quite recognisable: the hard drinking, macho culture, being one of the boys, the dysfunctional home life, the determination not to show any emotion at all at work, the having to be ten times better than the men to get any respect, yes, I think all that was certainly common. I do genuinely believe that the culture has now very much moved on in general terms. We have tried hard to weed out pockets of poor attitude and behavior. You won’t find CID officers like that these days, in general terms.”
CL (Looking a little crestfallen, whilst knowing it’s wrong) So, no more Gene Hunt?
RF (smiling) “No, I don’t think so”
CL What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
RF “I think just being there to a sufficient degree for all my team. I have a large group of really senior people (23 Chief Superintendents and three Assistant Chief Constables report into her) and I struggle to give them enough of my time. Even if I committed to spending part of one day with each of them, it would be six weeks before I got round to them individually. I believe that communication and collaboration is crucial when you are leading teams of such scale; with a team that big, operating across a national geography, functioning as and creating and maintaining a positive team can be quite difficult. And I take that so personally.”
CL Are you good at delegating?
RF “I’m getting better at it all the time, but it’s difficult. You have to do it, though, it pays you back tenfold when you do.”
CL Are you a control freak?
RF (laughing) “ Gosh, I think you’d better ask other people that! I don’t know. I have a pretty strong sense of responsibility, but I don’t think I’m a control freak. I do feel that sense of responsibility, that’s it up to me to do things. I think society tends to expect women to have roles with 24 hour responsibility, such as the domestic and caring activities and professions. Early socialisation tends to make women responsible for siblings and domestic chores. We take personal responsibility to a deep level. I do, I want to get it right.”
CL Would you consider yourself a feminist?
RF “ It depends how you define it. But yes, of course. How could I say I am anything else? As the old adage states, I really am standing on the shoulders of the giants who enabled me, as a woman, to have this job. To have this life. I would be letting them down if I didn’t say I was a feminist. Everything I can do is because of what they did. Even just looking at the police, there used to be essentially two separate services for men and women, there were fewer roles, less pay, less opportunity for women. Feminists forced that change.”
CL Legacy is a word that if often over-used; what does it mean to you, if anything?
RF “To me it means driving round and seeing bronze statues of men on horses! Monuments to men. I think, for me, it would be about ensuring I contribute to the fact that there is always a ladder for other people to climb.”
CL Anyone, or specifically women?
RF “Yes, anyone. But mostly women, because we need to help more of them progress.”
CL What is the most satisfying element of your job?
RF “Being in at the beginning of something I really believe in. Something that is going to keep people safer.”
CL So, how long is that beginning going to last? Do you have a timeline in mind?
RF “I don’t know. I’m here from absolute choice, I don’t have to be here, but I want to be. I did retire and now I’m up at 5am twice a week and 6am three times a week and I work long hours. I do it because I really think I can add some value. I hope I’ll know if and when that changes. I hope my colleagues will tell me!”
CL It sounds like you didn’t really plan your career in detail?
RF “Absolutely not! Does anyone? No, I never planned any of it. I have never known what the next job is. I’ve just got on with it.”
CL So, do you have any aspirations left? For life or work?
RF “I try to learn something new every year, I really do. But this year, it’s going to have to be learning about policing in Scotland, because I just don’t have any extra time for anything else.”
CL Who has/have been your inspiration(s)?
RF “Lots of people. In policing, I have met some really kind people. The person I am consistently inspired by in leadership terms is a female friend who is a police constable. She provides a reality check, she always reminds me that leadership is about leading in the community, not within the organisation. That it’s about taking the step beyond the organisation. Her standards, her motivation and her constant questioning of ‘what difference does this make to people’ inspire me to be a better leader. And it’s what I love about local policing, every constable is a leader in their community.”
CL What is the trait you most value in other people?
RF “A strong values framework. We might not agree around the edges, but I admire someone who knows what they believe in and does their best.”
CL And the trait you most deplore?
RF “Leadership that is not values driven. Ego. People running around managing the ego of a boss: their moods, their fancies. Especially in the public sector, I think that’s a disgraceful waste of public resources.”
CL Is there anything about yourself you wish you could change?
RF “ I would like to be more patient. My family would like that too and the people around me.”
CL So, are you a demanding boss?
RF (laughing) “Am I? Well, yes, but I dress it up a bit. Although I am impatient. I try to be a consensus leader, to let my team come to the conclusion about what they need to do and how to do it without my directing too much but then I get impatient whilst they’re coming up with it and wish we’d got there sooner. I think that makes me a bit wishy-washy style-wise. My impatience lets me down in that regard.”
CL And, just about you… what is your favourite song and why?
RF “There’s a song by the Avett Brothers, where the refrain is “We are headed North”. It’s significant because we came north as a family and it’s a really great song.”
CL And, finally… what never fails to make you smile?
RF “Funny thing to say in Scotland, but sunshine! I obviously haven’t been smiling too much recently. Is it always like this?”
Let’s not depress her by answering that just now… she’s got enough on her plate.
Our thanks to the DCC for the generosity of her time and her thoughtful responses.
To read more about Rose, her team and the work of Police Scotland, go to www.scotland.police.uk
Clare Logie is a regular contributor to the3rdimagazine.