ACC Julia Debenham
“I get asked all the time, how I manage to juggle my job with being a mum to two small children.
“The truth is it is a juggle to manage a career with having a young family. There are times I feel like I am not being a good enough mum and times when I think I’m not doing my job well enough.
“While it can be really challenging, it is also hugely rewarding and it is really important everyone already in the police family and those thinking of joining us are able to balance work and family commitments.”
Assistant Chief Constable Julia Debenham is the force’s most senior female police officer and is mum to two boys aged 7 and 8.
Apart from a few years away studying at university, the force area she serves has always been home - it is where she was raised and where she and her husband, who is a retired officer, now raise their own family.
Julia has been an officer for 26 years, joining the force in 1993 on the graduate entry scheme.
“When I first joined most women wore skirts and we were given a mini handbag and truncheon – thinking back to it now, trying to climb over a fence in a skirt, how impractical!
“Some of my most memorable moments were in the early years of my career.
“I remember as a PC being called to a burglary in progress, along with a colleague, and catching the person as they ran out of the house.
Although the adrenalin rush was something I’ll always remember, the thing that sticks in my head the most is the detective investigating the incident telling us afterwards it was the best handover they had ever had.
“I also remember, after helping a young girl, I got a letter from her father thanking me – sometimes it is the smallest gestures that stay with you.
“As a Detective Sergeant, I and another officer caught a man after being involved in a car chase. While attempting to get away from us the suspect was throwing weapons out of the window of his car. Even in his BMW 3 Series, he was unable to get away from us in our diesel Peugeot 306 – that was hugely satisfying!
“One of the most enjoyable times in my career was working as the Inspector in charge of policing the Belgrave area of the city. The community were always so friendly and welcoming and I really enjoyed having a patch of the force I was responsible for.”
It was in 2009, a Detective Superintendent, Julia faced one of her least comfortable experiences. As the senior investigating officer for a high profile murder, she found herself confronted by a wall of camera lenses during a press conference.
“At this point in my career I had experience of dealing with many serious crime investigations but nothing had attracted that amount of media interest before. As I walked into a room and saw all of those TV cameras and heard the clicking as photographs were being taken, my legs did turn to jelly a little. It was a lot scarier than some of the operational incidents I have dealt with!”
In 2011 Julia’s first son was born, followed by her second in 2012, but this hasn’t stopped Julia from continuing to move up the ranks.
“I’m so lucky to have support from my husband but juggling children and a career is a constant balancing act and I know many others face the same challenges I do.
“Despite the challenges, I would not change what I do. I know it’s a cliché but policing really is a career where you can make a difference. It is one of the most varied, challenging and exciting jobs I can think of.
“Anyone considering joining us should apply. Being a parent should not be a barrier to you having a career you are proud of.”