First Students qualify on new female-only driving course

Thursday, 19 June, 2008

THE first students from West Midlands Police's new female-only driving course have qualified as standard police motorcyclists, following a ground-breaking project to encourage more women to apply.

Acting Inspector Ned Kelly, the driving force behind the initiative, raised the issue of the lack of female motorcyclists at a national conference and discovered that the problem was the same across the country.

He contacted every female officer at road policing units across the force to determine the level of interest and identify any perceived barriers to their learning and development needs.

He quickly identified a clear interest in the programme from female officers but they felt they were restricted from applying by genuine concerns over issues such as the size and weight of the machines.

In response, A/Insp Kelly developed the force's first coaching programme for female officers, to run alongside the existing course, which enabled them to develop skills and knowledge to perform their roles more effectively.

The team also found practical ways to overcome the physical barriers female officers faced. They looked at the bikes being used and researched options suitable for smaller officers or females, and their work will form part of the force's procurement process for future vehicles.

They also discovered different techniques for riders, such as making simple adjustments to the and-grips to make them more suitable for women.

Two officers, PCs Jane Smith and Tina Benbow, have now successfully completed the programme and have encouraged many more female officers to take up the challenge.

A/Insp Kelly said: "I identified the lack of female police motorcyclists as an issue affecting not just WMP but the whole country.

"A great deal of research has been carried out by Acting Sergeant Paul Bowles and PC Steve Tyler, who developed new delivery methods to meet the needs of the students. It is vital that learning and development opportunities are available to all our staff, to recognise the diverse nature of the service and demonstrate a training solution to developing operational needs.

"I am really proud of Jane and Tina, who have now qualified as standard police motorcyclists and have encouraged more women to follow in their footsteps."

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