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Dr Rachel Ward joins the POP team

Dr Rachel Ward is a Sergeant at Devon & Cornwall Police and has recently joined the Centre on a one year secondment as a Lecturer in Policing Organisation and Practice.  We were keen to find out more, so Rachel kindly agreed to be interviewed....

Please can you tell us a little bit about your previous role in policing?

“I’ve been a police officer with Devon & Cornwall Police for 15 years. I’m currently a Sergeant and was leading a team called ‘Investigation and Resolution Centre’, which is responsible for triaging all the recorded crimes to assess whether there are viable lines of enquiry, if it is in the public interest to investigate, and, most importantly to ensure that victims get the best service possible (even if that means an early update to explain why the crime can’t be investigated and ensure they have support from the Victim Care Unit if they need it). Throughout my policing career I’ve worked in response, investigation, neighbourhood, diversity and partnerships.”

What inspired you to swap your policing role for an academic role in the POP team?

“I was ready for a new challenge. I was an academic before I joined the police. My PhD was on ‘Unionist and Loyalist Women in Northern Ireland: National Identity and Political Action’. When I saw the secondment advertised, I was really excited and keen to apply. It had been in the back of my mind that I should try to find a way to combine my academic skills with my policing knowledge and experience, so this was the ideal opportunity. I’m really happy to be part of the team.”

What will you be working on during your secondment with the POP team?

“I’m doing some critical reading and assisting with a bit of the authoring on the second and third year work-based learning content for the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship. I hope to do some research as well.”

What has surprised you the most working at the OU since you have been here?

“It’s been so lovely that everyone is supportive, welcoming and friendly. I feel valued already in the short time I have been part of the team! The inclusive and collaborative nature of how the OU works is a real surprise to me and has made the fact that I have not been able to meet anyone in person easier to handle. I really do look forward to meeting everyone in person though!”

Can you tell us a little bit about your research interests?

“I am interested in trauma-informed policing. Individuals who are traumatised at an early age, who have ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’ (ACEs), are more likely to end up within the Criminal Justice System. The police will see those who are already on that path and, with a trauma-informed compassionate approach could help to turn people around. A system wide trauma-informed approach is necessary to reduce the impacts of early years trauma but for those who are adults living with ACEs, positive police action is vital. I would like to look at whether delivering training in being trauma-informed makes a difference to police decision making.”

Now, can you tell us some things about yourself:

What is your favourite film and book and why?

“My favourite film of all time is Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’. I love how the film links together. The characters are fantastic, and the soundtrack is brilliant. My favourite book is The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ by Robert Tressell. I read it during my first year of university whilst studying political philosophy and had just read Marx’s ‘The Communist Manifesto’. The book helped to cement my social and political perspective. It is brilliantly observed and as it is written from Tressell’s own experiences, is an important record of how the working class lived.”

What is your favourite drink?

“Drink… without wanting to sound like Father Jack… I do like a tipple – usually a good gin with Fever Tree tonic.”

And most importantly, Team Cat or Team Dog?

“We have a cat – a black short-haired girl called Misty. She is loving me being at home more. She’s (unfortunately) a very good hunter, so I am often having to chase down birds, mice and even frogs that get brought into the house. I got her for my daughter who ‘just wanted something to love!’ but now I wouldn’t be without her.”

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