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West Midlands Police is marking the centenary of women in policing with a fascinating new book uncovering the history of women in the force.
WMP employees Corinne Brazier and Inspector Steve Rice have spent the last couple of years working on ‘A Fair Cop’ – a book bringing the force’s history to life for future generations.
The pair are both volunteers at the West Midlands Police museum as well as holding down police ‘day jobs’. This gave them access to a whole wealth of fascinating stories of the force over years going back to the original creation of the City of Birmingham police from the 1800s. Many of which had never made it out of the force’s archives.
They set to work bringing these stories out of the force’s archives and in to the public arena.
Corinne commented: ““The stories in this book belong to all of us and there will be many people across the West Midlands and beyond that can relate to the experiences and people featured in the book.”
Corinne had previously headed up a project to digitise the force’s thousands of archive files – old personnel files that went back as far as the 1800s. This took several months and took Corinne on a journey of discovery that ended in the momentous decision to write a book about the pioneering women who have paved the way for the women in the force today.
Corinne commented: “We unearthed some amazing stories. We discovered two full cabinets where all the female officers’ records were stored separately. That is where we found all the information about one of our very first female officers - Evelyn Miles. The file for the other officer who joined the same day has unfortunately not survived.”
The discovery of these women’s files triggered something in Corinne. She started thinking about what she could do to recognise the contribution of women to the force since they were permitted to join in 1917. With the 100 year anniversary of women joining the force coming up, it seemed to be the perfect time to pull all of this fascinating history together.
Corinne delved further and further into the force’s archives and unearthed more fascinating stories. For example she discovered one of the force’s first ever female officers, Evelyn Miles, had lied about her age when she joined making her the oldest serving female officer – having finally retired at the age of 77.
Spurred on by her discoveries, Corinne asked fellow police museum volunteer Inspector Steven Rice to join her in writing book. Titled ‘A Fair Cop’ – the book looks at the history of women in WMP.
Corinne added: “We found a book of Evelyn Miles reports from 1929 to 1940 which provided a great starting point for the book. It was fascinating reading and really helped us understand what women had experienced over the years. In an interview with the Birmingham Post from 1940 shortly after she retired, Evelyn stated that she believed virtually all prejudice against women police had vanished from Birmingham.”
‘A Fair Cop’ takes the reader right through from the trail blazing pioneer policewomen up to modern day – looking at all the various female firsts and incredible stories along the way including many original images that have never previously been published.
“We started with Evelyn’s 20 years of records and worked from there,” said Corinne. “We discovered Rebecca Lipscombe became an officer the same day as Evelyn, both of them having been employed by the force as lock-up matrons prior to that. Rebecca was 60 and Evelyn 54 when they started their new careers!”
“I was so inspired by these women’s stories and the more I found out, the more I wanted to share so everyone could learn more about them, see their pictures and know what they did. It was a travesty that these stories had just been sitting in dusty cabinets for all those years.”
Corrine said: “It took eight months in total to pull the whole thing together and it was worth all the effort. We are both really proud of it. We’ve had some fantastic feedback and we are absolutely thrilled to be bringing these women to life for a whole new generation of officers and staff and recognising the achievements of women throughout the force’s history.”
The West Midlands Police Museum Committee funded the initial print run of 1,000 copies. Any profits go to local women’s charities who were nominated by the force Public Protection Unit – Coventry Haven, Black Country Women’s Aid and Anawim.
If you would like to purchase your own copy of ‘A Fair Cop’ please send a cheque to Corinne Brazier at Lloyd House, Colmore Circus Queensway, Birmingham B4 6NQ made out to the West Midlands Police Museum for £9.99 (£12.80 with your address if you would like your copy sent to you in the post).
For more information follow @museumcop on Twitter or e-mail Museum@west-midlands.pnn.police.uk
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