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The West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable wants more Jews to join the force, believing they are under-represented


West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Dee Collins wants more Jews to sign up to her force, believing they are under-represented both locally and nationally.

Applications are invited for new recruits to her team of more than 8,000 and the Chief Constable is keen for “those from the Jewish community, including those in Leeds and Manchester, to come and join us. We are very passionate about inclusion and want to make sure people feel able to be who they are within the workplace.”

Chief Constable Collins attended Manchester High School for Girls, where there was a large Jewish contingent. On joining the force, she quickly became aware of issues which made it difficult for observant Jews to pursue a police career. “But in these times we are far more flexible,” she insisted.

In recent years, the West Yorkshire force has become more engaged with the Jewish community.

The Chief Constable has twice visited the Etz Chaim Synagogue in Leeds, once to attend a service dedicated to policing, the other time as an event speaker.

In a climate of rising antisemitism, she understood Jewish concerns about individual safety. “We do a lot of intensive training and a lot of work with CST on how to keep the Jewish community safe.

“We are trying really hard to better understand the community’s sensitivities — and to then think through how we can attract more Jewish people to become a part of us.

“There is a great benefit in having people who reflect local communities, as this helps the police to understand the needs of communities and individuals. It also increases mutual trust and working in partnership and enables us to access a wider pool of talent, which benefits everyone.”

The Chief Constable stressed the variety of staff roles, among them accountancy, IT and administration. There were also volunteering opportunities. “We are open to suggestions as to what roles people would be comfortable in playing.

“Sometimes it is quite difficult when young people leave the education system to get their foot on the [job] ladder because they don’t have experience. We have had cases of people joining WYP in a volunteering capacity and then choosing to stay on as professionals.”

Jews in the WYP force include Richard Padwell, who joined in 1996 after qualifying as a barrister. His deployments have included Bradford as a uniformed patrol and custody sergeant. His current role involves leading cultural change and improving staff wellbeing and engagement. He also covers as acting superintendent in Kirklees, Huddersfield.

He works on Shabbat but takes time off with permission for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He says colleagues are understanding when Jewish officers need time off, or reschedule shifts, to accommodate festival observance.

“When I first joined the police, the organisation was already a different place to how it had been 10 or 20 years earlier,” he said. “However, I did have a couple of experiences in my first few years when people made inappropriate comments about Jewish people. Now the culture has developed to the point where I cannot imagine anyone making such comments — and if that happened, that person would be dismissed without a second thought and rightly so.”

In his role as a WYP community engagement officer, Simon Phillips examines how the force can better interact with and support “hard-to-reach minority and vulnerable communities.

“One of the beauties of my work is that it crosses over into the work I do in the Jewish community [he is interfaith director of Leeds Jewish Representative Council].”

He also represents the Jewish Police Association at forums such as the force’s equality board and positive action recruitment group.

Howard Barnett is a recent recruit as a volunteer chaplain. He said: “There are times when officers feel the need to speak in confidence to me, whether it’s about spiritual or practical issues. I am there to listen. And being immersed in Judaism, I am there to explain whatever officers don’t understand.”

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