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Unlocked Stories: Memories of Policing as a Woman in the Sixties

Published on | #WeAre50, General

Prior to joining the police force, Joyce Taylor (née Cooke) worked in a local post office straight out of school. She joined Walsall Borough Police in the 1960’s. She had always wanted to be a police officer and really liked the distinctive police uniform.

On joining she went to Ryton on Dunsmore for 13 weeks for training, the recruits were expected to stay at Ryton but were allowed to go home at weekends. One of Joyce’s memories is doing drill; one day it had snowed heavily, Joyce thought that drill would be cancelled that day, but the cleaners had got up extra early to clear the drill space!

‘The drill sergeant would make you work, marching up and down, about turn and he’d rap your hat at the back if you got it wrong.’

Post-Ryton, Joyce joined Walsall Police, stationed in the old police building at the top of Walsall Market. Amidst a lack of computers, her work involved sifting through a massive cabinet of card records to uncover a suspect’s history. Crimes ranged from raids on brothels to murder investigations.

Joyce’s pride in her uniform was unmistakable, describing it as a meticulously put together ensemble – a heavy pleated skirt, belted tunic, a perfectly knotted tie, and the essential shoulder bag for notebook and pencil. Riding a bicycle during patrols, she reminisces about the challenge of cycling one-handed on windy days to prevent her skirt from billowing up!

Women Police wore stockings rather than tights which Joyce disliked, she says; ‘I hated the suspenders, they brought in stay up stockings, but they never actually stayed up!’ She recalls that her stockings were thick black with a seam at the back and they would always get laddered.

The gender disparities in policing were evident to Joyce; she acknowledged that female officers weren’t considered equals. Her shifts were confined to daytime, filled with varied tasks from looking after female prisoners to handling breakfast duties on Sundays when the kitchen staff was off. Joyce recalls having to deal with breakfast orders and frying up to 12 eggs!

All in all, Joyce really enjoyed her time in the police and only left because she couldn’t stay on after she had a child. She did re-join the police but as a civilian. She spent 8 years working on the front desk at West Bromwich police station.

With thanks to Joyce Taylor for sharing her memories with us as part of our #WeAre50 celebrations. Have your own fond memories to share? Get in touch!