Force bids a fond farewell to Caz Steptoe after 48 years’ service
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On 4 September 1972, a fresh faced Carolyn ‘Caz’ Steptoe joined Leicestershire Police as an ambitious 17-year-old cadet. She wore a crisp new uniform and had a sense of eagerness and determination about her which has stayed with her throughout her long service. Within a year, Caz had swapped her cadet uniform for that of a WPC as she joined the Policewomen’s Department where she mainly worked with women and children. In the early 70s WPCs did not have the same roles and responsibilities as their male counterparts. It wasn’t until the Sex Discrimination Act came in in 1975 that police forces harmonised pay scales for men and women and opened all aspects of policing to women.
Caz was the first female neighbourhood officer in the Highfields, she described how her role changed overnight and for the better. She said: “Some of the women were wary of the huge changes, they were suddenly out on the streets, working shifts and chasing after criminals. I couldn’t wait to get out there, it was very eye opening and I embraced the change.”
One thing she didn’t embrace quite as eagerly was the uniform! Although the men wore trousers, the women were still expected to wear skirts, stockings and suspenders, not forgetting the handbag they had to carry on each shift. Inside was a small truncheon, a whistle, handcuffs and two radios, one for receiving and the other for transmitting. Caz said “Back then, your greatest protection was your mouth, if you could communicate well with people, you’d get on just fine.”
During her career as a police officer, Caz worked in the vice squad as well as the drugs squad. She remembers a time when she and her sergeant were patrolling an area of the Highfields when a call came in reporting that a man wanted for murder had been spotted nearby. They located him and her sergeant told her to give chase, so she jumped out of the car in plain clothes and ran after him.
“I chased him through the Highfields for ages, until he abruptly came to a stop, he turned around and started chasing me! I wasn’t in uniform and it was if he suddenly thought, ‘why am I running away from this woman?’ and decided to chase after me instead!” Caz said.
Talking to Caz, it would seem there was never a dull moment, she has a lifetime of memories from her time as a police officer; she witnessed the eruption of riots in the Highfields in 1981 and worked through the miners’ strike in 1984, doing 12 hour shifts, seven days a week. She also spent many a Leicester City match sat in the crow’s nest at the old Filbert Street stadium and operating the security cameras as part of the football policing operation.
In 1993, Caz sadly had to retire as a police officer due to ill health. Not to be perturbed, she continued to work with the LCFC security team before returning to Wigston Police Station in 1995 as a resource planner.
Caz Steptoe achieved so much during her time in uniform, however, her 25 years as police staff were even more impressive! Apart from working as an IT Trainer for the force, she has spent the majority of her time in the Resource Planning Department, moving into a team leader position before becoming Resource Planning Manager.
It’s down to Caz that Leicestershire Police have such an innovative and forward thinking approach to flexible working. Before Caz began looking at flexible contracts, the working time directive and battling any breaches of regulations, she said there was no such thing as flexible working, Caz added: “If you had a baby for example, you either returned to your normal shift pattern or you left.”
Thanks to Caz, Leicestershire Police is now a lead force for their flexible working policies, with other police forces often coming to Caz to glean her expertise to better improve their flexible working practices.
This week, after an impressive 48 years’ service, Leicestershire Police is saying goodbye to Caz as she leaves us for her very well earned retirement. And what a legacy she leaves behind, last year she took home the Lifetime Achievement Award at the force’s Women’s Inclusive Network awards and this year she has been nominated for another lifetime achievement award, this time by the British Association for Women in Policing (BAWP). Caz has also seen her son following in her footsteps and becoming a police officer, currently working in the force’s Digital Hub. Leicestershire Police is also the place Caz met her husband, Kev.
Anyone who knows Caz, knows her retirement will be a huge loss to the force. Fellow retired officer, Detective Inspector Johnny Monks said: “Caz Steptoe – a top police officer and a top police member of staff. She has been a rock for me and many others, consistently fair to all and always supportive.”
Another of her colleagues said: “Caz is Leicestershire Police, she is everyone’s ‘go to’ person, a font of knowledge, smiley, bubbly and always helpful. She will be sadly missed.”
Chief Superintendent Adam Streets has worked with Caz throughout his career, he said: “I can’t begin to thank Caz enough for her loyal service to the force over the years. She should be incredibly proud of what she has achieved and the positive difference she has made to the people who have worked with her. Her support and guidance, candour and positive attitude has been unwavering throughout her long service.”
From her time as a cadet, to starting out in the Policewomen’s department, hitting the ground running as one of the first female neighbourhood officers to being a trailblazer for excellent flexible working practices, Caz Steptoe has seen the force change and evolve over almost 50 years. But she said there are a few things that will never change: “Communication is key, it always has been. For anyone looking to join Leicestershire Police, if you like talking to people, this is the best job!
She added “If I could give you any advice, I would say, try to take those extra few minutes to talk to people, whether you’re on patrol or on a job, take the time to talk. And of course – always look smart, you’re representing Team Leicestershire.”
We say goodbye to Caz after nearly 50 years’ service at Leicestershire Police, she will be greatly missed but we wish her a very long, happy and healthy retirement.