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Police launch essay competition for girls

A career within a career: Bermuda Police Service women talk about their jobs as they invite girls to shadow them on International Women’s Day. From left, Acting Chief Inspector Tracy Burgess, Superintendent Na’imah Astwood and Detective Inspector Derricka Burns (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

From working with dogs and community groups through drugs and firearms, to strategy and management, these women have certainly enjoyed versatile careers.

This week they hope to show schoolgirls how a broad range of opportunities are contained in a single profession — policing.

Three students from middle or senior schools are expected to join the high-ranking women officers for International Women’s Day after the Bermuda Police Service launched an essay contest.

Girls were asked to answer in 200 words: “What does female empowerment mean to you?”

Writers of the best entries will be invited to shadow Superintendent Na’imah Astwood, Acting Chief Inspector Tracy Burgess and Detective Inspector Derricka Burns on Friday.

Ms Astwood said yesterday: “I think traditionally people look at policing one-dimensionally, that it’s a career profession where you are arresting people, but it’s so much bigger than that.

“It’s about community relations and staff relations. It’s truly a managerial role once you start progressing through the ranks.”

Ms Astwood explained: “All three of us are in departments where we are leading strategic change, writing policies that not just affect the organisation but also impact the wider community, it’s exciting to show people the different side of policing that they wouldn’t normally see.”

She added: “Policing is a career within a career. All of us have worked in so many different units, your knowledge and experience growth is exponential.”

Ms Astwood’s role involves strategic change in the service but she added community policing to her remit and was considering ways to help parish constables forge better relations with the public.

Ms Burns works with the financial crime and drugs units and hoped she could show the contest winners what was involved in each of those areas.

She added: “It’s a multitude of operations, there are so many different departments.”

Ms Burgess’s responsibilities include public order, police dogs, work to tackle gangs and armed response vehicles.

She said: “We get to see more of the operational, proactive day-to-day side of policing.”

Ms Burgess added she looked forward to welcoming the successful essay writers.

She said: “It’s about showing women that we do fit into society, showing that even though policing has the stereotype of being a man’s world, it really isn’t.

“Just as any man can fit into it, any woman can fit in as well.

“I think women have a nurturing side to them and in the police service as a whole you get to express that. I don’t have any kids, so my nurturing side comes out in my career.”

Ms Burgess added: “Women can make themselves come up through the ranks ... you don’t have to sit back and let everybody else go ahead of you, you push yourself forward.”

Ms Astwood joined the BPS in 1994 after service as a police cadet and said women were not allowed to drive police cars without a male officer at the time as it was thought they needed protection.

She said: “I grew up in a family with five brothers so I knew that was something we had to navigate through. Obviously that was something that had to be debunked.”

Ms Burgess added she believed the service had “come miles” since then. She said: “Women are definitely respected on a different level.”

A police spokesman said the campaign was inspired by a similar opportunity offered by Alison Crocket, the Deputy Governor, who asked teenage girls to submit online videos about problems they would like to see tackled.

He added: “Many of our serving police officers have taken traditional as well as non-traditional career paths and the BPS believes it is an important gift to the community to highlight their journey.

“We ultimately want to inspire the next generation of leaders and complement International Women’s Day to show the value we place on the dynamic role that our female officers bring to the BPS.”

The original deadline for entries was extended by 24 hours to 5pm today.

Essays can be e-mailed to pmr@bps.bm,