Sergeant Faye McSweeney, who works on recruiting the next generation of firearms officers for the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has been a police officer for 26 years. An advocate for more women in the firearms division, she’s doing her part to ensure the Met is representative of all Londoners.
She shares her experience of policing the recent Platinum Jubilee and tells us what it’s like being a female officer working in the firearms unit of the Met.
What was your role on the day of the Jubilee?
On the day of the Jubilee I was on aid as a public order loggist to a Principal Bronze Commander, which meant I was responsible for logging all decisions they made that day. We were posted to South London.
Was it a long shift?
Yes! I worked about 14 hours that day but it flew past – it was an amazing day. Sadly, I didn’t manage to catch a glimpse of any Royals – I was too focused on the job in hand!
What other big events have you policed?
I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in policing a wide range of events, protests and civil unrest. For example, I’ve policed big sporting events like the Olympics and FA Cup finals. I’ve been on duty during protests and I’ve policed major state occasions, including presidential visits and Princess Diana’s funeral.
What made you want to join the police?
I was working as a printer in Hackney and I enjoyed it but just felt I could be doing something better – something that would make a real difference to people’s lives. My husband, who was already a police officer, would come home and tell me about his day and it made me think I’d love a job like his. So I applied and became an officer in 1997 and I’ve never looked back.
I love the diversity of the job I do, especially meeting female officers and changing their perspective of the Firearms Command.
Is it a macho environment?
It’s definitely not a macho environment. I feel it’s a very grown-up and professional Command as officers here really want to be here. They’ve put themselves through tough courses, so there’s a level of respect between male and female officers – we’ve all been on the same journey to get here! I’m proud to say that never in my 26 years in policing have I felt that being a woman has held me back. All the people I’ve worked with have only wanted the best for me.
How long was your firearms training and what did it involve?
The training takes around 11 weeks, and you learn everything from tactics and searching all the way up to weapon handling.
Any career highlights where you feel you’ve made a real difference to someone’s life?
I am extremely proactive in promoting women into firearms. I love seeing female officers apply and 6 months later they are in an Armed Response Vehicle. I’m extremely proud that because of my work helping these officers, I won the British Association of Women in Policing award for Mentoring.
What do you think are the positives being female brings to your role?
With this role it’s all about teamwork and skillset. It’s tough to say what positives a female can bring to the team as you're all highly trained and work so closely together – everybody brings their own skills and I think that’s an important mindset to have.
How has the Metropolitan Police Service supported you in your career?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020 and the support I had with getting promoted during treatment was exceptional. I have great admiration and appreciation for all the work MPS does.
How do you feel policing has changed since you joined?
We’re certainly more open-minded. We’re more than happy to discuss issues publicly, and our staff are more representative of the communities we serve.
Why do you think diversity in policing is important?
As we all know, the work on making the police more representative and inclusive is never finished. London is not made up of white men, so I, like many others, believe we need to keep working hard to build a police service that represents all Londoners.