Alumni Spotlight: DC Francesca Wheatley, Operation Callaway, Lancashire Constabulary
Wednesday 28 September 2022
Francesca Wheatley joined Lancashire Constabulary via Police Now’s National Graduate Leadership Programme in 2016 and worked on the Burnley Neighbourhood Policing Team, tackling cybercrime and responding to a range of incidents as a police constable.
She also undertook a secondment with the Centre for Social Justice, exploring ways the government could implement national policies to prevent and reduce Child Sexual Exploitation.
Upon graduating the two-year programme, Francesca worked on the force Response team for two years before becoming a detective constable in the Criminal Investigation Department.
She tells us about her first major case as a detective constable investigating an incident of manslaughter, and her recent secondment to ‘Operation Callaway’ where she has been part of a team investigating two Organised Crime Group following a violent confrontation.
Detective Constable Francesca Wheatley
Detective Constable Francesca Wheatley
“I joined Lancashire Constabulary in 2016 via Police Now’s National Graduate Leadership Programme, having just graduated from the University of Birmingham with a Social Policy degree. I had never thought about joining the police until I came across Police Now’s programme, but its emphasis on diversity and inclusion opened my eyes to the idea that, as a (relatively small) woman, I could still be a successful police officer.
“I hadn’t fully considered what my long-term career plans would be, but joining the service was the best decision I ever made. I think people don’t realise just how many different disciplines and opportunities there are in the police.
“Whilst on Police Now’s programme, I worked on Burnley Neighbourhood Policing Team. This involved a strong mix of proactive and reactive work. We worked alongside partner agencies including Trading Standards and the local council to tackle issues that mattered to local people. For example, I worked proactively with school children in the area to educate them on the dangers of cybercrime, which became a long-term project as I was asked to run workshops every academic year. I found that I also really enjoyed the reactive work, such as executing warrants and going out with the team at dawn to search properties and make necessary arrests.
“As part of the programme, I also secured a competitive external secondment with the Centre for Social Justice in London. I was seconded for a month and worked on a project around Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), exploring ways the government could implement national policies to prevent and reduce CSE. I spoke with victims and attended an event in the House of Lords, alongside representatives from charities and the political world, which gave me a real insight into the national issues and the considerations that need to be made to find long-term solutions.
“Upon graduating Police Now’s programme, I moved onto the force’s Response team for two years. Response is very reactive; you don’t know what 999 calls are going to be coming in each day. We responded to a range of things, particularly domestic violence incidents or individuals going through mental health crises. I loved the unpredictability of the role, as we navigated how to protect the most vulnerable members of the community, but I wanted to transition into a detective role and start seeing cases all the way through from start to finish.
“I passed the National Investigators’ Exam and joined the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in November 2020 as a detective constable. We deal with a range of different crimes, from high risk missing persons, large scale disturbances and rape and murder investigations. I have recently been investigating a case where a man has repeatedly exposed himself to several women and children. I have managed to secure charges against the suspect and am now awaiting the results of the trial.
“The first major incident I was involved in was a suspected murder which happened over the 2020 Christmas period. The victim suffered serious head injuries during an assault at a residential property and tragically died the following day.
“When a major incident breaks, we are against the clock as suspects can only be kept in custody for a limited time without a charge, so the days are long and the pressure is high. The investigation involved collating witness statements, CCTV evidence and telephone evidence. This was my first time at a post-mortem examination, which was an eye-opening experience for me. Two people were found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 11 years in prison and 45 months in prison respectively.
“In February of last year, I was seconded to ‘Operation Callaway’, investigating an incident that happened between two Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) in Burnley.
“A group of offenders from Burnley attended an address as part of a plan to ‘tax’ (rob) a cannabis farm belonging to a Manchester-based OCG. The Manchester group responded – armed with a number of weapons and a firearm – leading to a large-scale disturbance. Two men suffered gunshot injuries and a third suffered injuries to the head consistent with being attacked with a machete. As part of Operation Callaway, I helped secure an array of charges against eight offenders – ranging from drugs and firearms offences to perverting the course of justice. All of the offenders went on trial in May this year and have pleaded guilty or unanimously been found guilty by the jury.
“Being a part of Operation Callaway and working as a detective constable in CID has opened my eyes to the severity and level of violence within organised crime. The experiences have made me consider a future in Regional Organised Crime Units, but I have just begun a worthwhile new role as a Child Protection Detective instead and am finding it incredibly interesting. I enjoy being a detective; supporting victims, preventing repeat offences and making real positive differences to people’s lives allows me to feel confident in the career that I have chosen.”