Gillespie’s hopes for future female Chief Constable

Former PSNI DCC Judith Gillespie says she would like to see a female Chief Constable one day, and has praised the work of everyone involved in the force, hailing them "unsung heroes". Picture by Arthur Allison, Pacemaker

Former PSNI DCC Judith Gillespie says she would like to see a female Chief Constable one day, and has praised the work of everyone involved in the force, hailing them "unsung heroes". Picture by Arthur Allison, Pacemaker

A female Chief Constable of the PSNI is something former DCC Judith Gillespie would like to see, describing it as a prospect which would be “fantastic”.

Speaking two years after leaving her own post at the helm of the organisation, she added that she hoped her own journey would make that of the women coming behind her “a little easier.”

And she paid tribute to the legion of people who worked for the force though not necessarily on the front line, those employed in more background roles including finance, administration and forensics, hailing them as “the unsung heroes”.

In a wide ranging interview with the News Letter, which will be published tomorrow (Saturday), the 53-year-old mother-of-two, who served 32 years in the police service here, also spoke of her decision to retire.

“You know in your heart of hearts when it’s your time to go, and it’s better you know and make that decision, before someone makes it for you,” she said.

“The opportunity to be Chief Constable was not open to me, because you had to do two years out of Northern Ireland. I had made a conscious decision that I would not do that, and so I had gone as far as I could. It was the right decision for me and I have absolutely no regrets about it.

“So when I came to the end of my contract, I decided it was time to move on and do different things.

“We had delivered amazing things in that time, things like the G8 Summit, the World Police and Fire Games, the MTV Awards, the hand shake between the Queen and Martin McGuinness. All these had happened in my time.”

She also revealed that she has kept handwritten letters she received which are important to her, and which she would have pulled out following a tough day, as a reminder “that actually, people do value what you do.”

She said: “There is nothing that beats a handwritten letter to say well done, or my sincere sympathy, or whatever it may be. It means a lot.”

To those young people in Northern Ireland who want to join the PSNI, she has this advice: “I would say, if you’re really committed, and really sure, then absolutely go for it, but don’t go for it half heartedly, because it is a profession that will invade every aspect of your life, and even if you’re not on duty it’s a 24/7 job.

“You have to understand that you’re making a big commitment, but it is the most fulfilling, rewarding, worthwhile job.

“You have to have that sense of vocation. You have to be relentlessly professional, and even when in difficult situations you have to be calm, effective, dispassionate, but also compassionate. You cannot deal with some of the crises that we come across without having some compassion and treating people with dignity and in a way that you would expect your own loved ones to be treated.

“Plus of course you have to have courage and sensitivity. And you have to be nosey - and not always take things at face value.”