08 Mar 2023
If I could give my past self some advice, it would be that it’s okay to dream big
It is easy to judge someone by how they appear in a media interview or when you see the uniform and hear me speak, but fundamentally I am just as prone to the worries of life as anybody else. How I portray myself publicly now has all been learned along the way on my policing journey, I have gained confidence I didn’t know I had.
I started my career in 1992 as a PC at the Metropolitan Police Service working in central London Vine Street Station. Back then, my dream was to reach the rank of Superintendent, which felt like a big dream. If anyone had said to me I’d be the Chief Constable of British Transport Police, I simply wouldn’t have believed them. And my goodness, I wish I could go and tell the 22 year old Lucy how far she would go.
My parents were social workers, so I think I was always destined for a career in public service. Telling my mum I had got the job of Chief Constable was such a proud moment for me. It is such a shame my dad wasn’t around to see it. He was progressive and recognised the importance of allyship, something he instilled in me from an early age.
I’d already fallen in love with BTP as an organisation so I was incredibly excited when I became Chief but I will admit, more than a bit scared! Until that point, I’d always had someone above me to check in with and the realisation I was now the ‘Conductor of the orchestra’ came with a lot of responsibility. Never be scared to talk about your vulnerabilities.
I am very lucky to be surrounded by incredible people who support me, give me great advice and feedback. I am always learning from listening to my team because some of the best changes we’ve implemented have come from ideas and feedback across the Force. As a leader, I always say it is important to hire and work with people who are better than you. In doing so, I want to create a culture where ideas and difference are things that are valued and where we can be honest about the fact it’s not always easy.
The hardest days are those where I feel I’m being average or poor at everything and not juggling very well. I know from speaking to other women, that I am not alone when I think that. It’s important we remember to ask for help when we need it because we simply can’t be everywhere or do everything. And as well as people who will help me, I have people who will call me out and let me know when I need to prioritise something else. I’m lucky to have that healthy balance around me.
International Women’s Day offers a moment to reflect on the past and the trailblazers who made it possible for women to be here in senior positions but also to stop and recognise the brilliant women in policing today.
It’s a great career and one which I want to inspire women of all ages and backgrounds to consider. I recognise that the world of policing is in a difficult position at the moment. It’s been rocked to the very core because of abhorrent behaviour, but we mustn’t forget there are tens of thousands of officers and staff doing a fantastic job. It is so rewarding going home knowing you’ve made a difference and that difference is tangible.
In my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to lead a number of significant operations and events including being the national police lead for the Queen’s funeral, and also Operation Peyzac which saw 21 firearms recovered, a gun conversion factory dismantled and violent offenders sentenced to a total of over 400 years in prison. I also ran New Year’s Eve in London for at least 7 years - no small task given the vast celebrations and numbers of people who come to the capital, however, there is one job which really sticks out in my memory.
I was an Inspector at the time, we were called out to a domestic abuse incident in which a man had dragged a woman across the garden by her hair. My colleagues arrested the man who was in his eighties; I stayed behind to speak to the victim who was a similar age. I made her a cup of tea and we sat down to talk. They had been married for 60 years and he had abused her both mentally and physically for nearly all of that time but she’d never felt able to tell anyone about it. Talking to this brave woman on that night has stayed with me throughout my career and after all those years, I felt I could make some difference to her life by listening. People think of the big things I have done, but it is often the smaller jobs that stay with me.
I have always been an advocate for women; both my colleagues serving alongside me in policing and women in the communities where I live and work. 2019 marked the 100-year anniversary of female police officers joining the Met and as Deputy Assistant Commissioner, I was privileged to lead the celebrations.
It is so important that policing provides an attractive and practical career path for everyone and as part of this I was proud to work with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to improve maternity pay for police women nationally from 18 to 26 weeks.
If I was to give advice to anyone in their career it’s to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Be comfortable with the possibility of failure. I know it can bring anxiety but in my experience you will always be rewarded for it. While it takes hindsight to see it, some of my biggest successes have come from some of my biggest disappointments.
And of course, courage – which has never been more important in policing. To speak up and stand up for what you know to be right, even if you’re a lone voice. The courage to take a different position, in service of those you lead and the public.
I started my Instagram account @BTPChief as I wanted to show a different side to policing. Instagram feels like a more supportive space than a lot of other social media platforms and it’s one which I think we can use to really celebrate, challenge and inspire each other. It’s important that we not only show the highs but the lows too and be clear that it’s okay to share our vulnerabilities.
To the public, they see me as Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi, but there is more to me than that. It sounds very grand when you talk about moments you are proud of or operations you have led but when I go home every night I am a mother, a wife, a daughter and a friend. There is a human side to us which is often not appreciated. A girls holiday? Count me in! A Saturday evening sat watching Pretty Woman on the sofa? Here for it! There is a lot that lies behind the uniform, which makes up who I am. My friends would say if there’s fun to be had, I will find it.
I was watching some video footage of myself at my 21st birthday recently and I almost can’t believe I’m the same person. I was really shy back then and on top of gaining skills and experience in policing, I’ve grown hugely in confidence. It’s a job like no other. And it may sound like a cliché but I firmly believe that if I can do it, then you can too.
Lucy D'Orsi QPM, Chief Constable British Transport Police
By phone: 07803903686
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org