For temporary Detective Superintendent Furzana Nazir, her police career was almost ended before it began by a regulation that would itself be later made illegal because of discrimination laws.
Brought up in Teeside, the daughter of a Muslim Kenyan mother and a Muslim Pakistani father, Furzana failed to get into Cleveland police because she was under the specified height limit of five foot six inches.
“Even if I stood on my tiptoes I was only about five foot two,” she says.
Furzana followed her other passion of working in sport and leisure as a manager at Windermere Swimming Pool, in Troutbeck Bridge, before applying to become a Special Constable with Cumbria Police.
By this time the rules around height had been removed because they were considered discriminatory and Furzana entered the regular police force in Kendal in 1993.
“I am pleased they got rid of the law because you don’t need to be a particular height to deal with a situation,” she says.
“It’s about communication, not just physical presence. I always wanted to join because I wanted to help people. That’s my earliest memory of it, of wanting to help people and that’s where my journey began.”
Today, as a senior investigating officer, Furzana deals with serious and complex crimes.
“There was a time when I applied to be a Detective and somebody said: “You’ll get in because they’ve got no women,” she says.
“There was the odd occasion where I felt people take one look at me and see a female and an Asian person and probably think, wrongly, that I have ticked some boxes. Invariably once they got to work with me and know me they forgot all that and they saw that I get stuck in and I do the work.
“Back in 1993 when you started on a shift, you could see that they wanted another man on the shift, but they’d got a little girl. But I got stuck in. If somebody needed arresting or they had run off, I caught them. Our shift arrests went up massively. The shift soon forgot that I was a policewoman and they just saw me as a valuable team member.”
She says attitudes had changed in the 25 years she has been a police officer in Cumbria.
“They have changed massively for diversity and for women as well,” she adds.
“People (both internally and externally) see that you can perform and do the job and that’s what they’re after. I support many colleagues within the Constabulary, I informally mentor and support people who are ethnic minorities, women and male colleagues. I also work with members of the Community from various diverse backgrounds in order to assist and encourage them to join the Police as I believe it is a wonderful career. I will retire in the future and I want to make sure that the force remains diverse even when I leave.
“What’s also been important for me has been to have the right supporters myself. I am not saying I need people to stick up for me or protect me, but it’s nice to know that there are people around for those times when I am feeling uncertain, wondering about whether I should go for a certain job of if something has been said to me. My supporters are both men and women and they genuinely support me and believe in my ability to do my job.”
Ultimately, a more open attitude to diversity improved the work the police did as well, she said.
“I think its important that we reflect our communities, having diverse (men, women, ethnic minorities and so on) people performing various roles within the Police brings a sense of reality. At the end of the day, you can talk about it and have recruitment campaigns, but unless you’ve got those real tangible people in those specialist roles, like female firearms officers, or women as senior detectives, chief officers, then it’s not real. People like myself in these roles can communicate what their journey has been like, what their role entails and they can encourage and help others to see the Police as an exciting and promising career for them”.
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