THE strength and resilience of women police officers were praised by the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, during a service held in Westminster Abbey on Friday to celebrate their 100 years in the Metropolitan Police.
Thousands of officers, their families and friends, gathered to pay tribute to female police officers past and present. The service echoed one that was held in Westminster Abbey in May 1919 to remember the Metropolitan Police Officers who had been killed in the First World War.
At that service, six women officers — then called “women patrols” — had appeared in uniform in public for the first time.
“It is a stark reminder to us of the cost of service,” Bishop Mullally said in her sermon. “There were just 21 of these pioneering women in February 1919, but they quickly grew. Their pay was low, and no pension rights were given . . . They were not sworn in, nor were they given the power of arrest.”
Today, there are nearly 8000 women officers in positions across the Met, including the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick.
Andrew Dunsmore/Westminster AbbeyThe Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is welcomed to Westminster Abbey by the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick
The Bishop continued: “In the course of a century, I know that you must have battled sexism and harassment to lead rather than to follow. . . We should celebrate how progressive the Met has become.
“In 1918, only some women over 30 could vote; they could not practise law until a year later; Cambridge University didn’t allow women to fully graduate until some 29 years after that; and, in the Church of England, women could not be priests until 75 years later, or bishops until 2014.
“Women playing their full part is not just about equal opportunities: it is good for the Metropolitan Police Force and for the wider community.”
During the service, the Met’s colours were presented to the Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd John Hall, and placed on the high altar. The Abbey choir and Met choir sang, and testimonies and readings were given by serving women officers, 12 of whom wore uniforms that were replicas of those worn in 1919.
Bishop Mullally concluded: “We celebrate a community which understands its dependency on each other — knowing that it is as important to receive support as it is to give it. Know that your strength is in your diversity.
“As a former nurse, I was delighted to see the first black female police officer was Sislin Fay Allen: a nurse who responded to a recruitment campaign in 1968. I hope that, while we are celebrating 100 years of women in the Metropolitan Police here today, more from Black and ethnic-minority backgrounds will apply.”
The service was the culmination of the Met’s #100yearsstrong campaign, which highlighted milestones in the history of women in the Met.
Read the full text of the Bishop of London’s sermon here.