Breaking down barriers: tackling imposter syndrome in the police service
Tuesday 29 November 2022
Today (Tuesday 29th November) Police Now hosted a panel event to discuss imposter syndrome, with input from leaders in policing, advice on how to tackle your inner critic, and discussions on the causes of personal barriers and practical tools to overcome them.
Organised by Police Now’s Ambassadors and Alumni team, and with just over 70 officers attending the digital event, the Tackling Imposter Syndrome panel consisted of:
- Superintendent Stephen Wykes, Northumbria Police, who was one of the first officers in Northumbria Police to go through the National Fast Track programme.
- Detective Constable Parveen Raheeman, Metropolitan Police Service, who has seventeen years’ experience in the force and currently works on a Homicide Investigation Team.
- Retired Chief Inspector Rachel Harris, who served with Kent Police and is now a trainer, coach and founder at Realise Development Services.
- Joni Ferns, Chief Operating Officer at Police Now, who was recently named in Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35.
Police Now focuses on breaking down the barriers often faced by underrepresented groups, to support the progression and development of their officers on the two-year programmes and beyond. In partnership with forces across the country, Police Now consistently recruits more female officers and more officers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds than the national average, and offers personal development and leadership coaching and access to exclusive networks and events.
Superintendent Stephen Wykes said: “Moving through a few ranks fairly quickly has resulted in me feeling ‘tested’ by colleagues and peers. On reflection I think this experience was a lot more to do with my own insecurities than my colleagues giving me a hard time.
“Learning to ask for help, and recognising that approaching things a bit differently was often succeeding, were key to overcoming my imposter syndrome. That said, it hasn’t gone away and just last week I found myself leading a complex operation and wondering how on earth I had ended up there. But I reminded myself that I worked hard to get here, I earned my place and I led the team successfully through the operation. My advice to anyone is to forge your own path, be yourself and don’t be tempted to try and emulate others, and always ask for help.”
Former Chief Inspector Rachel Harris, who retired from Kent Police in September 2021 and hosted today’s panel event, said: “As a police officer I was often thrust into environments and surrounded by people who appeared to be better qualified and more confident to perform their duties than me. Once I started to discuss this subject, I was surprised how many people I considered successful openly discussing experiencing these feelings. It really helped reassure me that imposter syndrome does not equal an inability to do a role.
“Honestly, imposter syndrome has never completely gone away for me. I learnt a great deal more about managing it during my transition from the police to a business owner. When we understand ourselves better, we are able to harness skills that are vital not just for dealing with imposter syndrome but for health and wellbeing too.”
Joni Ferns, Police Now’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “I have continuously been challenged regarding my age and years’ experience when I have gone for leadership roles throughout my career. The intersectionality of my age, gender, and ethnicity and the perceptions associated with that can often lead to a lot of personal insecurity. But I have learned to always put my hat in the ring, and I have been extremely prepared for every opportunity. Ultimately, you can’t win if you’re not playing. My advice to you is to never let anyone put you in a box, and challenge yourself (and those around you) to recognise your capabilities, skills and value to your force and your communities. Go for it – the worst thing that will happen is you’ll learn something, which will only support you in the future.”
Police Now’s mission is to transform communities, reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, and increase the public’s confidence in the police service by recruiting, developing and inspiring outstanding and diverse individuals to be leaders in society and on the policing frontline.
Applications for Police Now’s National Graduate Leadership Programme (for those looking to join the service) and Frontline Leadership Programme (for those already in the service looking for leadership and progression support) are currently open.