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Judith Gillespie, policing pioneer

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Date - 12th March 2014
By - Cliff Caswell - Police Oracle



When a young Judith Gillespie (pictured) joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1982, Northern Ireland was a very different – and altogether more violent – policing environment.

With the Provisional IRA campaign at its height officers – like members of the Armed Forces – were routinely targeted by improved explosive devices, firearms and booby traps. During the years of the Troubles, when British troops were routinely deployed on the streets if the province in a 38-year continuous operation, more than 300 members of the policing community paid the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

But as a woman in the male dominated force, Constable Gillespie was not issued with any personal protective equipment. Unlike the men she served alongside she did not carry a firearm – even though bitter experience had shown terrorist action did not discriminate on gender.

“When I joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary back in the early 1980s females accounted for around 10 per cent of the workforce – as opposed to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) where they now make up more than a quarter,” the officer, who is now approaching retirement as deputy chief constable, told PoliceOracle.com.

“If you saw a woman officer back in 1982, she would not have had any of the personal protective equipment you have today and would probably be wearing a skirt – back in those days you actually had to apply for permission to wear trousers.

To read more visit PoliceOracle.com