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Meet PC Lauren Hooper, one of the 70 officers who took their oath to the King on Friday 20 January. PC Hooper has only recently turned 18 but comes from a long line of police officers and so policing is in her blood as well as the forefront of her mind.
“Being a police officer means a lot to me, in my family we have over 100 years together in policing. I’m now the fourth generation to qualify and I’m extremely proud to carry on the tradition. Even my Great Grandad served in the war, it’s always been so inspiring to me, and it makes you feel like you’re a part of something good. The police have always felt like a family for me, and not just because half of them are in the force!”
Although policing has always been a passion, PC Hooper hasn’t always been confident in joining:
“I’m autistic and dyslexic and there were times where I never thought I’d get to this point because I feared I’d be the odd one out. But once I took the first step and researched my options, I knew I couldn’t let that hold me back”
Luckily for us, PC Hooper took a leap of faith and was welcomed to the Essex Police family with open arms. There are many training options to suit different needs and PC Hooper opted for the PEQF route, which enables you to gain a degree through Anglia Ruskin University alongside training at the college.
“This seemed a little daunting the first time I looked into it but once I started and got the balance right, I was so happy I took this route as I’ve got a degree at the same time. But for me, this was one of the hardest things in training, as I had never been to university before, so this was a little overwhelming at first – it was the biggest challenge of balancing the intense physical training with the academic side”
When it comes to the 22 weeks of training, the college cater for each learning style and PC Hooper comments on how supportive your fellow recruits can be in your training also:
“The best part of training for me is meeting a mixture of people, from fellow recruits to trainers and officers. Everyone is so interesting and has so much to share. You’re always learning and there’s different ways of teaching to suit everyone’s style. And learning from each other has been beneficial, allowing the space to make a mistake and then smashing it on the second go because you’ve learnt and grown from it is vital. No one judges you for that, everyone is there to help and support you. It’s a safe space.”
But when it comes to support, PC Hooper is in big supply:
“My family are so supportive; it helps because so many of them are in this career and they understand the fight. Even my partner trained with me and graduated on the same day! But my dad (Chief Superintendent Stuart Hooper) is probably my biggest supporter and he’s inspired me throughout this process and just in life in general: through school to college to training. He always said I had a superpower with my autism and dyslexia and to never see it as a weakness – because it’s a unique strength and I can use it to help other people with. I’ve always appreciated that – it’s given me confidence to follow through with my dreams.”
When it comes to breaking stereotypes – especially in the policing world, PC Hooper wants to shatter the glass ceiling:
“Obviously being neuro-diverse always has its challenges in life but I’ve still been able to train, pass the tests and even became one of the drill leads at the passing out parade which was a proud moment for all my family.
People always have this idea of what a police officer should look like. But I assure you, even as a 5’5 woman – I can hold my own. People always assume you have to be a six foot plus man to keep up with the training, but I’ve never struggled when it comes to defending myself. I’ve completed the training with people of all different shapes, sizes and backgrounds – when it comes down to taking down an assailant, we will do everything in our power to protect you.”
PC Hooper always has policing on her mind, even when it comes to her hobbies:
“Outside of work I do a lot of team orientated hobbies, I used to sail a lot and was in the Police cadets for years as the head cadet. I still help out now and then and I love that the younger ones have seen me progress to an officer, I hope I inspire them to do the same.”
But she assures anyone that wants to join, should give it a go regardless of previous experience but thinks a particular skill will put you in good stead above the rest:
“I think a transferrable skill that’s often overlooked when it comes to policing is your communication skills, whatever you’ve done in the past, if you’re able to speak to all manner of people in a respectable way, then you’ll make a great officer. I always pride myself on my communication skills and I feel being neuro-divergent has really helped me hone this skill, I’m good at listening, absorbing and reacting appropriately – as someone who is non-neuro-typical, I’m never quick to judge and open-minded. So, if you have that, you should definitely apply!”
So now she’s completed the training and taken the oath, what could be next for PC Hooper?
“I would like to work up the ranks and become a leader, like my dad, but I’m also interested in working with the Hate Crime unit, those routes have always appealed to me – but you never know what can happen, there are so many opportunities here to explore and so many places you can go. I’m also interested in the Community Policing Team and being out there and interacting with members of the public on a daily basis because ultimately, I want to be there for my community, to serve Essex and to make a difference.”
Just speaking to PC Hooper, you can feel she was born to do this. So, she has some advice for people who might be hesitant in joining, like she initially was:
“If you’re thinking about joining Essex Police, just do it. Keep going and don’t give up. It can be tough at times but it’s worth it. There’s also so many opportunities and different routes in, you’re bound to find one that suits you. Like me, I came straight from college into the police, if they didn’t have as many opportunities, I might not be here.”
If there’s one thing PC Hooper wants the world to know, it’s this:
“Don’t let being neurodiverse ever stop you from achieving your goals. Essex Police have supported me massively throughout this journey and helped me overcome any challenges I’ve had along the way. So, if you’re worried about joining policing because the world has told you you’re a little different – don’t let that hold you back. Everyone is welcome here and there’s not one mould for a police officer. We reflect the community we’re in, so anyone is welcome to join. If you’ve got the dedication and the passion, you’re already halfway there.”
Looking for a secure career that's all about protecting and serving the community? Join Essex Police.
If you #FitTheBill, get in touch.
If you’re applying as an officer, your starting salary will be £28,812 to £29,682 (this figure includes a £3,000 South East Allowance) and you could be earning up to £43,032 within seven years as a PC.
In addition, officers from the rank of constable to chief inspector receive an additional 10% of their basic pay for all hours worked between 8pm and 6am*.
*This payment is not pensionable and will be paid for each full hour worked. Where overtime is worked between 8pm and 6am, the rate of the allowance is still 10% of basic pay, not 10% of the overtime rate.