I’m Sarah Johnson, I am, and have been, a TFC for the last 7 years. I’m also a PIM and currently hold the position of Tactical Armed Policing Team Inspector for the East Midlands Operational Support Service. In my spare time I’m also a mother to three little boys aged 2, 4 and 6 and wife to an AFO.
I joined Northamptonshire Police in 2001 after completing my degree. I joined the Police because I was hoping to find a career that would offer me interesting challenges, opportunity and excitement. My first posts were in response and community teams. I enjoyed both roles but wanted to do more and so I sat my promotion exams and was promoted to sergeant soon after. I don’t think I considered the ramifications on my opportunities for lateral development at the time, I was just excited about my new role. I went on to work in other roles within projects, as a staff officer but also sat my Inspectors exams and was promoted again in 2007. I reached a bit of an impasse at this point. I wanted to seek lateral development but my roles were now relatively limited by my promotion.
I applied for and was accepted into the Force Control in 2008 and, as a result, was introduced to firearms by becoming a Tactical Firearms Commander. I’ve taken quite a few courses within the Police service but this was by far the most challenging.
I hadn’t had much exposure to the world of firearms before then (despite being married to an AFO!) and, honestly, I had some stereotypes about the people I would meet and how they would behave. The course really changed my view on them as individuals and also the huge pressure and responsibility we place those officers in that role which in turn contributed to me joining the PFOA.
I was very proud to pass my course and went on to work as the control room inspector for the next three years. I found, and continue to find, the management of firearms incidents a challenge. I also discovered that there is huge experience and support available from the the officers dedicated to this role. Working with them led me to realise that I really wanted to progress my career into firearms but, in a small force, the opportunities were a bit limited to entering Specialist Ops (as it was known at the time). With both firearms Inspectors roles being filled, I applied for a different Ops role managing Events and Contingencies and this allowed me to develop my spontaneous TFC role with the additional planned skills.
I stayed in the Events role for about 18 months before an opportunity arose for me to take on the AFO Inspectors role in January 2014. Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to assist in the development of EMOpSS and accepted into my current role with a regional SFO team.
I think that, at any rank, firearms is a challenging but exciting job which I would encourage anyone to look into if they have an interest but I would want to be clear that it is a demanding role. The management of firearms is an intelligent process requiring dynamic decision making, physical fitness and coordination plus excellent general policing skills. However, they are not gender specific skills.
I want to change the negative stereotypical views held in respect of firearms officers and their roles. I think they are out of date with the reality of a professional, dynamic and progressive area of policing. Like most stereotypes, they focus on negative caricatures which bear little reality to our current roles and actively deter many from considering it as a career path. I think it is unfair on the many excellent officers already in these roles and I’d encourage anyone interested to actually go and investigate the role yourself rather than be influenced by speculation.
I want to support people to considering the firearms role. I think it has huge opportunities for personal development and I am keen to encourage female officers to apply as we continue to be underrepresented in the role. I’m happy to be contacted by people who are interested in firearms as a career path. I have particular experience of managing flexible working patterns (my husband and I both work full time in the same department), recruitment and diversity.
Insp X0123 Sarah Johnson | Northants Operations Tactical Unit | Firearms
East Midlands Operational Support Services
Telephone: 101 Ext: 344538
If calling from outside Northamptonshire, please call 03000 111 222