Realising her potential – Police Constable Natalie Barette, Joint Operations Unit (JOU) Tactical Firearms Group

Realising her potential – Police Constable Natalie Barette, Joint Operations Unit (JOU) Tactical Firearms Group

As an Operational Firearms Commander and Firearms Instructor, Natalie has had a fascinating 15 years across various departments. From Public Order training, Taser training and Initial Pursuit Driver training, through to attachments to the Prison Handling Team, we recently caught up with Nat about how she is realising her potential at Thames Valley Police (TVP).

Length of service: 15 yearsAge: 38

Is this the path you expected to take in your career?    

I didn’t expect to go into Firearms when I joined the police. I liked the idea but wasn’t sure I was cut out for it or that I would fit in.  I was female.  I had never fired a gun.  I held Firearms on a bit of a pedestal and questioned whether I could attain that level. It was a role I knew little about initially but became a goal in 2012 so I spent time working towards it, finding out about the department and the qualities needed for the role. The assessment process is hard, both physically and mentally. You need to achieve level 9.4 on the Bleep Test as well as pass an assessment day before starting the initial course. It took me three attempts to succeed at the interview process so required persistence and self-belief too.   

Was there a job that you’ve not been able to do in policing? Has anything surprised you about the variety of roles available?

I never fully appreciated the wide variety of opportunities that were available to you until I joined TVP. There are many different roles within the police so people with different skillsets and abilities can work towards their goals. I wanted to get as involved as possible in the operational side of policing, so during my time on Incident & Crime Response (ICR) I qualified in several additional skills, such as Method of Entry, Level 2 Public Order, Taser, CBRN response (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents), and Response driving.  

Have you ever had any setbacks? 

During the first six months on the Armed Response Vehicle (ARV), I doubted my decision to join. There was one incident where I couldn’t scale a wall and it made me question my ability.  However, I was supported by a great tutor and soon realised it is much more about the team than the individual. 

In 2017 I discovered I had Ovarian Cancer and had to take 18 months off and endure major two surgeries. My department and colleagues looked after me and  I received a hand written note from the Chief which meant a lot. I loved the job so much; I was desperate to get back. I worked very hard to re-gain my fitness as you are required to retest (we have annual fitness tests and medicals) before returning to full duty in 2019. 

Do you feel you’ve been supported and that you are also able to use your own experiences to support others? 

Definitely! I tick more protected characteristics than most; as a gay, female with mixed ethnic heritage (English father, Singaporean mother) with a disability (as a result of my cancer diagnosis) but I have always just been me and not felt held back by ‘labels’. It means I have been able to join several of our staff support networks to benefit from the experience and support of others, but also to provide support and guidance to others. I am an in-force Cancer Buddy and strongly believe in peer support, talking to others who have gone through what you are experiencing is really helpful.  In 2020 I was named Inspirational Woman of the Year in our Thames Valley Women’s Network awards and I can honestly say having a positive attitude and resilience throughout got me through. 

What has been your proudest achievement to date and did you ever see yourself achieving this? 

My proudest achievements are completing my Operational Firearms Course and National Instructors course. This has opened up further opportunities for me within the firearms world and has given me additional responsibilities, new goals and even more satisfaction with my job. These are both things I wouldn’t have considered when I joined the police back in 2007. 

What would you say to people considering policing? 

Go for it! I am lucky to have an exciting, varied and challenging job and even after 15 years I enjoy what I do and wouldn’t consider doing anything else. 

Thames Valley Police (TVP) is actively looking for people to be the difference they want to see in their communities. To find out more about a policing career with TVP – including the realities of working on response, initial training, and to apply to become a Police Officer please visit our Police Officer page