Counter Terrorism Policing celebrate International Women's Day | Counter Terrorism Policing

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Counter Terrorism Policing celebrate International Women’s Day


To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re sharing stories from some of our incredible women working in Counter Terrorism Policing across the country, who are all united by our mission to keep people safe.

From police officers, to police staff, there are women in vital roles all providing an important contribution to what we do.

The theme for this year’s #IWD2023 campaign is #embraceequity and the importance of recognising that each person has different circumstances and ensuring they are equipped with the resources and skills to achieve equal outcomes.

Take a look at our case studies below to find out more about our #womeninct

Detective Superintendent Helen Collier - Director of Intelligence at Counter Terrorism Policing North West

Helen Collier

To mark International Women’s Day, we’re sharing the stories of incredible women working across Counter Terrorism Policing.

Detective Superintendent Helen Collier is Director of Intelligence at Counter Terrorism Policing North West and is passionate about creating an inclusive environment for her officers and staff.

“I made the decision to join the police when I was approaching the end of my Pharmacology degree, I knew I wanted to work with people but wasn’t really sure where that might take me. When I look back now it was quite a hasty choice, but 26 years on, I can say I have never once regretted my decision, it was absolutely my vocation.

“Throughout my career I’ve worked in CID, murder and drugs teams, been a family liaison officer and a specialist interviewer. I’ve also worked in covert teams, before finding myself entering the incredible world of counter terrorism.

“Along the way, I’ve tried to share my experiences with other women, hopefully demonstrating the career paths available and dispelling those dreaded myths about balancing family life, or what a ‘traditional copper’ looks like.

“At the same time, I have also seen policing change, and there have been huge steps made to make sure any misogyny or inappropriate behaviours are challenged, but of course there is still work to be done. We should never be complacent, especially as leaders in an organisation. I am passionate about making sure everyone has an environment in which they can thrive.

“There is no avoiding the fact that the work we do is challenging and it can be physically and emotionally draining and I encourage my teams to be open and honest about that. I’ve certainly had moments in my career that I’ve found tough; working on homicide teams then coming home to read to my children before bed is definitely a gear-change.

“As I’ve progressed in my career, that balancing act has changed again – as a senior officer trying to be at the top of my game, leading complex terrorism investigations, with elderly parents to support and all the other life admin can be interesting. That’s where the support of your organisation is vital, and CTP are very much committed to ensuring that balance is achievable.

“If you’re thinking of applying for a job with Counter Terrorism Policing, don’t be put off by what you think are the stereotypes. It is a tough job, but it’s so worth it. There are some amazing roles for both officers and staff, and you will have some incredible career paths ahead of you.

“On International Women’s Day I think about the strong women in my family, my great grandmother who pushed boundaries in the early 1900s by becoming a school teacher and my own mum, who had a long career in the NHS, working so hard and dedicating herself to public service. I was lucky to grow up with strong female influences around me, I owe them a lot.”

Hannah Wilkinson - Head of Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit, Eastern

Hannah Wilkinson

To mark International Women’s Day, we’re sharing the stories of incredible women working across Counter Terrorism Policing. Hannah Wilkinson is Head of Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit in the Eastern region and is the only female civilian to have held the position.


“I moved to Counter Terrorism Policing in May 2022, previously I was head of ROCU (Regional Organised Crime Unit) and my background has been in serious and organised crime and in proactive policing.  I’m really happy to come into CT.  It’s quite familiar in some ways, in terms of intelligence command, but I’m really enjoying understanding the different world that CTP is

“Counter Terrorism is really interesting.  It’s the only part of policing that I can see where a national network comes together. It’s hugely supportive and there is a real wish for everybody to succeed.  So as an individual you get all the support you need, because we all need to be successful and while one individual could cause a massive risk in the system, it’s really important everybody is supported.

“I really support equity for all people in the workplace. I’m a police staff member and I hold a job which is otherwise held by police officers. We talk about equity in the workplace and I really want to support and promote police staff and how we use these people.

“We have individuals with a huge amount of knowledge and expertise, but our careers as staff are different to police officers and we have completely different terms and conditions, so we need to think about how we carve out career opportunities in policing.  It’s an important topic under embracing equity alongside representation of other groups.

“On International Women’s Day I think about how women talk at work and I can see a real move for our female colleagues to talk more openly about personal experiences and issues, which feels very different from a very structured process delivery organisation. To hear about people’s challenges, their family life and to understand a bit more about the impact of their work feels like something our women talk about this has hugely enriched conversations in the workplace, which is a really positive move.  I also think about how brilliant it is having females in policing and leadership roles, as it brings that extra bit of quality.”

Mel Waddington - Counter Terrorism Policing North West Strategic Development Officer

Mel Waddington

Mel Waddington is Counter Terrorism Policing North West Strategic Development Officer. She has worked in policing at Lancashire Constabulary for 24 years, the last five years in Counter Terrorism Policing and still loves the challenges it brings.

“I started working for Lancashire Constabulary in 1999 as a Divisional Property Officer, managing all the seized evidence and found property handed in by members of the public.

“2002 saw me start a family and take a career break until 2005. Upon return I became a Witness Care Officer in CJS, managing all the cases for Magistrates Court initially and ultimately Crown Court, before moving back to my original job in 2006.

In 2018, I applied for the role of Community Engagement Officer within Prevent at Counter Terrorism Policing North West and in 2021 I got the opportunity to move into the role of Strategic Development Officer working on Valuing, Difference, Equality and Inclusion as well Recruitment and Retention, and Leadership. I feel like I have truly found my niche!

“The best bits of the job are getting to work with the senior leaders and being treated like an equal. Being valued for my experience, enthusiasm and contacts. The opportunity to work across five forces, meet lots of new people and get involved in work on a national level. Every day is different and this is quite refreshing.

“Working across the CT network with many different IT systems is a challenge. The fact the CT isn’t its own entity/police force makes many things a challenge. 

“I have seen many changes over the years. I remember WPC’s and female officers having to wear skirts and carry handbags with small truncheons in them. Pocket note books, then the introduction of Samsung devices to do your work on. 

“I have witnessed the ‘Them and Us’ culture dissolve, there are still some relics of this behaviour, but it is now challenged…and openly! We are now Police Staff not civvies, or support staff, which I do think helps with the historical culture issues. The ‘Life on Mars’ days are definitely a thing of the past. I now see women in an abundance of senior roles both police officer and police staff and you’re not frowned upon if you want to job share, be part-time in a position of rank, have to leave early for childcare, or family issues. We are even understood and supported if we are having a bad day due to the Menopause. I remember more mature female colleagues considered grumpy, ditsy, forgetful without consideration for why this possibly was, when I first joined the police.

“I still think women have to work harder to prove themselves, but maybe this is personal perception, or imposter syndrome felt by females.

“Getting a Commendation from my Superintendent for work achieved in Prevent was my proudest moment. I hadn’t been in the department long and it’s the one and only time in my 24 years police career that I have been formally recognised/nominated for an award for my outstanding contribution. I have been thanked many times for my hard work by supervisors, but to be formally recognised was a real honour and a shock if I’m honest.

“Would I recommend joining Counter Terrorism? In the words of NIKE… Just Do It! You’ll have more transferrable skills than you realise, it’s not a closed shop, with only jobs for the boys and you get loads of training and support. Plus you become part of a national team that really impacts on the security of the nation and definitely makes a difference, which is why many people join the police in the first place; to keep people safe and make a difference.

“On International Women’s Day I think about Inspirational Women – like Florence Nightingale, Emmeline Pankhurst, Marie Curie and the power and capability of a determined woman. We are a formidable force and it inspires me to believe in myself.”

Sarah Shelley - Deputy Head of Communications at Counter Terrorism Policing’s Headquarters

Sarah Shelley

For International Women’s Day we’re sharing stories of some of the incredible women working across Counter Terrorism Policing in 2023.

Sarah Shelley started her career in counter terrorism over 20 years ago, when she stepped into special branch in Manchester as a researcher. She’s now working as Deputy Head of Communications at Counter Terrorism Policing’s Headquarters.

“When I started at Greater Manchester Police in 2003, I was the first ever researcher and I was only the third police staff member to join the team, the eighth female, all the rest were men, which shows just how far we’ve come!

“My initial years were incredibly diverse and I was quickly involved in complex counter terrorism investigations including the murder trial of one of our colleagues who was killed on duty. It was a really difficult time for all of us, but it gave me a really clear grasp on our mission, to keep the public safe and bring those who threaten our national security to justice.

“Having worked in counter terrorism for over two decades, I’ve seen huge changes to how policing responds to the threat, including the development of regional counter terrorism units following the 7/7 bombings and the key role our partnerships play. I’ve seen the Counter Terrorism Policing network grow, evolve and adapt in how it protects our communities; playing a part in that is a privilege.

“My career path has been a diverse one and I’ve been lucky to work in a range of roles, including Head of Operational Development in the North West and now in our HQ in communications. When you work in policing, the opportunities are vast and you learn something new every single day, that’s why I’ve stayed so long!

“Whilst I’m talking in clichés, I’ll also talk about the people I work with, who have an incredible shared passion and commitment for the work we do. People want to be on top of their game, because what they do really matters, there is a direct line of sight from our work to the safety of the public – which is a great thing to get out of bed for in the morning.

“Things have certainly changed for women working in policing since I started my career. There are more of us in senior roles, the environment is more supportive and more flexible to enable people to be parents and employees and the culture is far more inclusive however, there is always more we can do.

“Young people need to see policing as a career option for them, women in policing need to be confident that promotion opportunities apply to them and we all need to think about how we inspire the people around us. We have to keep striving for change and not become dormant, I’m personally really passionate about the importance of creative and dynamic recruitment processes that try to build on these principles. A workforce that has opportunities for everyone. 

“I’ve got a lot of moments I’m proud of from my career, but nothing makes me prouder than when a colleague gets the recognition they deserve, sharing success with a team is a fantastic feeling. I also feel proud to work for an organisation which is absolutely people focused, on both its own people and the public.

“On International Women’s Day I’ll be thinking about the women who have fought for us, and in particular our grandmothers who paved the way for the opportunities we have today, at home and at work. I’ll also be thinking about the next generation and my son and daughter, who both believe in the importance of equality and who don’t see ‘difference’ as a negative but as a vital part of a balanced world.”

Q&A session

We also held a Q&A session on social media, addressing the following FAQs for International Women’s Day:

 What’s the work life balance like at CTP?

It’s incredibly important. Having a good work-life balance means we’re better placed to make a difference and keep people safe from terrorism. We are always encouraging applications from candidates who want flexible working arrangements, like part-time working, blended and remote-working or job shares.

Would I be allowed to work from home?

A lot of our roles offer hybrid working for more flexibility and a better work-life balance. Each job advert which will tell you if the role is hybrid or office based.

Where are the jobs based? Would I need to work from London?

We’re really proud to be a national network, so there are opportunities across the UK to help keep people safe from terrorism.

Whereabouts are your offices? 

We have regional networks throughout the UK, so you could be based from one of these.

What’s the culture like at CTP?

We work really hard to build an inclusive and welcoming culture at CTP. This helps us to do things differently, try new ways of working, and being flexible so everyone can deliver the best and ultimately keep people safe.

Do I need to have a policing or security background?

Not at all! From finance to project management, data analysis to communications and more, we are always looking for different skills, knowledge and experiences to join our talented teams.

How long does vetting take?

Security vetting can take up to six months or longer

What opportunities are there for career progression?

Work with us and you will be joining a world-class Counter Terrorism Policing network. You’ll have fascinating work, talented colleagues and exciting career pathways across the network including secondment opportunities and much more. We also work closely with partner agencies, helping our teams build their networks and skillsets.

Do we work with Policing and Security Services?

Yes! Counter Terrorism Policing is a collaboration of police forces across the UK. We work closely with MI5 and other partners to help protect the public and our national security by preventing, deterring and investigating terrorist activity.

What benefits are on offer?

We offer lots of benefits, including:

  • Flexible and Hybrid Working
  • Competitive Pension Schemes
  • Competitive Pay
  • Generous Holiday Allowances
  • Progression Opportunities
  • Training & Development
  • Career Pathways

I don’t want to be a police officer – what other types of roles do you have?

We have a variety of staff roles available across a range of departments, including: Communications, Analysts, Counter Terrorism Security Advisors, Admin, Support Services and ICT. 

You can find the current vacancies on our careers page Careers | Counter Terrorism Policing 

Do you offer any apprenticeships in the CT field?

Not currently. We offer sandwich courses for university students. 

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