The best woman won, says female chief constable

Pauline Clare denies both sex bias and political correctness, writes Jason Bennetto
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Britain's first female chief constable yesterday said she had not suffered discrimination while in the police service, and dismissed suggestions that she was offered her new job because of "political correctness".

Pauline Clare, 47, currently deputy Chief Constable of Cheshire, who was chosen on Wednesday to head the Lancashire police force, said: "I think I got the job because I was the best candidate."

At her first press conference as the new chief constable she said: "I am a very determined person and I set my sights a very long time ago on being Chief Constable of Lancashire, and I hope I have gone through the relevant experience and skills. I did have an eye on that and I have achieved it. I think it is extremely significant. Whether you are in Lancashire or wherever, being the first woman is making history and I am very conscious of that and delighted to be the first one."

Asked whether gender had been an advantage or disadvantage to becoming chief constable, she said: "All I say is talk to people who work with me and have worked with me in the past and watched me perform, and I think you will realise I got the appointment because I have the ability."

Mrs Clare dismissed a suggestion that the sex discrimination case fought by Alison Halford, the former Merseyside Assistant Chief Constable, could have played a part in her appointment. Miss Halford claimed she was unable to rise above the rank of Assistant Chief Constable because of a male- dominated culture within the police service. Mrs Clare replaced Miss Halford after she left Merseyside police.

Lancashire Police Authority said her gender was irrelevant in her appointment ahead of four senior male officers on the shortlist.

Ruth Henig, the authority chairwoman, said: "That wasn't an area we covered. We had a number of criteria; we matched the candidates against those and Mrs Clare had most if not all the qualities we were looking for."

Fred Broughton, chairman of the Police Federation, which represents the vast majority of the service, said: "It's unfair to identify this as a women's issue. She was appointed on merit and not as a woman. But it will be an encouragement to other woman police officers."

Mrs Clare said she was not certain that a so-called "canteen culture" existed in the service, where her appointment is seen as a major breakthrough. There are still only about 15,400 women officers - about 12 per cent - in the police service. Among senior police ranks, from superintendent to chief constable, there are 43 women to 1,547 men - only 2.8 per cent. The Chief Inspector of Constabulary's report in 1993 noted that there was a drop in the number of female applicants and appointments to the police.

Mrs Clare said she would be looking at recruiting policies in her new force, where about 15 per cent of the 3,200 officers are women. But she is not a believer in positive discrimination, whether for women or ethnic minorities.

She said she had encountered no difficulties through male prejudice in her rise through the ranks in Lancashire since she started her career as a 17-year-old cadet. She had never felt the need to become "one of the boys" to get on. "Never. I am what I am. I never try to be other than I am. No disrespect to boys but I don't want to behave like a boy."

She expressed irritation at being questioned about her favourite type of perfume, saying: "You probably wouldn't ask a man whether he used a certain aftershave. I am conscious I might be advertising but I do like Chanel No 5."

WOMEN IN THE POLICE

Rank 1980 Total no. 1990 Total no. 1995 Total no

Women of positions Women of positions Women of positions

Chief Constable - 64 - 48 1 51

Dep. Chief Constable - 40 - 58 2 46

Asst. Chief Constable - 156 1 127 3 104

Chief Superintendent 3 669 10 606 7 280

Superintendent 36 1,498 30 1,542 31 1,096

Chief Inspector 51 2,352 54 2,379 50 1,792

Inspector 127 6,352 185 6,962 237 6,322

Sergeant 425 18,776 857 20,086 1,121 18,011

Constable 9,788 87,516 13,376 95,282 16,013 80,014

TOTAL 10,430 117,423 14,513 127,090 17,464 107,716

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