The essence of problem-orientated policing: PC Azila Hussain on the frontline
Tuesday 11th July 2023
“I had previously never spoken to anyone from the police service, let alone seen a police officer who looked like me, so the idea of joining the police felt like a step into the unknown.”
Police Constable Azila Hussain joined Humberside Police in 2021 via Police Now’s National Graduate Leadership Programme and is now serving the community she grew up in as a neighbourhood police officer in Scunthorpe.
She is particularly passionate about bringing her experiences as an Asian woman into policing and building public confidence in the police service amongst Asian communities. She tells us about her experience as a Police Now officer and the work she has been doing so far, including setting up Asian women support sessions at a local mosque, going above and beyond to support victims of racially aggravated assaults, planning a new mentoring scheme in force, and her ‘Ramadan challenge’ for colleagues.
Police Constable Azila Hussain:
“I was studying Philosophy at the University of Nottingham when I came across Police Now’s National Graduate Leadership Programme. I had previously never spoken to anyone from the police service, let alone seen a police officer who looked like me, so the idea of joining the police felt like a step into the unknown. But this felt like all the more reason to join and use my experiences to build community ties.
“I joined Humberside Police via the programme in the summer of 2021 and threw myself into the role from day one. As a neighbourhood police officer, I work on a wide range of cases from missing person cases and drug offences, to reducing anti-social behaviour. I also spend time on local initiatives to try to build stronger ties between the neighbourhood policing team and the communities we serve.
“Early on, I recognised that the police had little connection with women from ethnic minority backgrounds, particularly those of South Asian heritage. We were rarely ever spoken to or approached by this group when on foot patrols and when officers attended Asian homes, they were regularly spoken to only by men. When I spoke to multiple different Asian women, they said they have never called the police or spoken to a police officer. I realised that there needed to be a better relationship between this community and the neighbourhood policing team, to make sure there are no crimes going unreported and that we are safeguarding any vulnerable members of our community to the best of our ability.
“I have successfully organised two Asian women’s support sessions so far, held at a local Mosque. I have built multiple different relationships within this community, and I also invited our local council and support agency representatives, as well as some of my colleagues who have been able to offer their support. This work is on-going and there is beginning to be a relationship where there wasn’t one before.
“I have also worked with Humberside Police’s ethnic minority network, BRIDGE, and have taken the lead organising and planning a mentoring scheme event. The scheme aims to allow ethnic minority officers to be partnered up with high-ranking officers and begin a mentoring relationship. This allows officers to receive expertise and guidance from Senior Leadership Team (SLT) members, and conversely for SLT to gain a better understanding of the lived experience of ethnic minority officers in force. Mentees and mentors have been paired up with regular check-ins and plans of a second event are now underway.
“I am also in the process of organising regular face-to-face check-ins with new ethnic minority recruits. The hope is that, by providing an open space where ethnic minority officers can talk about their experiences and receive support, more will stay in policing and feel like they belong in Humberside Police.
“Within Humberside Police, I have also provided training sessions for colleagues on Ramadan and how it affects policing and officers working in the community. Being informed about other cultures is vitally important and can really support our role as neighbourhood officers. Simply knowing when Muslims will be breaking their fast, and therefore what time is best to avoid when contacting a Muslim victim or witness, can make life easier for everyone involved and lead to increased understanding.
“At the end of the session, I invited colleagues to take part in a ‘Ramadan challenge’ – a day-long fast to help understand what it’s like for me and other Muslim colleagues fasting whilst on shift – and amazingly some of my colleagues agreed! They joined us for a ‘community Iftar’, where we opened our fast and spoke to many members of the community who were fasting for the day.
“Seeing the difference that I make every day is incredibly rewarding, and I can honestly say that I love my job. When I was at university two years ago, I never imagined I’d be where I am now – the people I’ve supported and the confidence I’ve inspired among many Asian women in my community is something I’m really proud of.”
Police Sergeant Will Harrison said: “Azila joined our team in 2022 with a specific wish that she worked on the town ward of Scunthorpe, as she grew up in the area and wanted to give something back. The ward is a challenging place to work but Azila very quickly started to make an impact with her willingness to get involved with the community, listening to its problems and seeking to resolve them. This has tested Azila but she has shown herself equal to the task with her drive and passionate commitment to make things better for someone. She has brought innovative thinking to the role and can clearly see the ‘bigger picture’ to understand why a problem is occurring.
“Two outstanding pieces of work that I have seen her conduct involved her recognising that two separate individuals were committing racially aggravated offences on the ward and making the lives of several people a misery. Azila showed that she was learning quickly and gaining experience very early into her service on the Neighbourhood Policing Team by conducting a thorough investigation into both matters and leaving no line of enquiry unexplored.
“She took the time to gather all possible evidence and arrested and processed the individuals, leading in time to a protracted liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service. Due to the level of detail Azila had applied to these matters, both returned with charges. Azila was not finished here as she sought longer lasting resolutions with Community Behaviour Order and restraining order applications to offer a higher level of protection and confidence.
“Finally showing her wider acknowledgement of problem-solving, Azila sought to support the individuals away from a pattern of offending and influenced partner agencies with the capacity to intervene in their lives, to undertake joint home visits to discuss with them a more positive life path. This is the very essence of problem-orientated policing and I am very pleased to have Azila on my team. For someone relatively new in service she has demonstrated passion, resilience and commitment to her ward and her community.”
Chief Inspector Derek Hussain, BRIDGE network Chair said: “Azila has been a fantastic champion for BRIDGE, a staff association that is open to all ethnic minority officers. Azila has worked on a number of projects, the key one for me being organising the force mentorship programme for ethnic minority officers and staff. Humberside police and BRIDGE are really keen to ensure our officers and staff are supported. Azila sourced the right guest speaker for the event, opened the event and ensured senior leaders were engaged. As a result, all the officers and staff who attended now have a senior leader as a mentor and I am sure this will have a lasting effect for the force.
“Azila has also represented the force at national conferences, including the Women of Colour in Policing annual conference and the GG2 Leadership & Diversity Awards in London, and always brings back learning to the force, ensuring we listen and try to make things better for our staff and officers.”