I HAVE been wanting to tell the extraordinary stories of UK policewomen since writing my own police memoir, On The Line, which was published in 2019, by Two Roads Books.

I spent just over 10 years policing the streets of London, as a police constable in the Metropolitan Police Service. In that time, I attended the scenes of murders, fights, stabbings, high value robberies, aggravated burglaries, domestic assaults and everything that fell in between. I dealt with many challenging, and sometimes terrifying, incidents, and met many excellent police officers.

I have always been inspired by successful women. I remember being particularly excited when our team got a new female sergeant or inspector. I looked up to female superintendents and leaders and wondered if one day, I might be among them.

It took me a long time to accept that policing was never meant to be my career - I had always dreamed of becoming an author - but I will always be thankful that I spent a decade in policing. It opened my eyes - sometimes wider than I’d wish - to the harsh realities of life that my previously sheltered upbringing had hidden from me.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Alice Vinten pays tribute to women in policing in her new bookAlice Vinten pays tribute to women in policing in her new book (Image: Suzy Hearn)

One thing became clear to me during my service: we need more women in the force. In the last few years policing, and especially the Metropolitan Police Service, has come under harsh criticism as long ingrained cultures of misogyny have been exposed. Whilst supporting the desperate need for a change in the institutional cultures of policing, I also worried that young women who may have previously wanted to join would become disillusioned with the idea. I wanted these potential new recruits to realise that women have a huge role to play in the police service, to realise that they could be part of the change, and that though some forces still have a way to go to truly make things equal for women, the changes have already begun. I wanted to write about all the fantastic, dedicated, professional and brave policewomen out there that I knew existed - because I’d met them!

I wrote The Real Happy Valley to champion female police officers. To tell their stories, using their voices, taking readers on a walk in their boots. I wanted to prove to everyone that women can achieve just as much - sometimes more - than their male counterparts. I’ve always been a fan of TV crime dramas, and the fictional character of Catherine Cawood (created by the marvellous Sally Wainwright) in Happy Valley sparked a passion in me. I realised that I wanted to write about the real-life women behind the warrant cards. I knew that there were real policewomen out there who were just as fierce, brave and compassionate as the fictional Sergeant Cawood. I just had to find them. I decided I wanted to tell Yorkshire based crime stories, and I set about reaching out to police officers across the county.

I was delighted to get enthusiastic replies from many long-serving, experienced policewomen. They wanted to tell their stories, they were proud of their careers, and wanted especially to share the cases where they’d got justice for their victims. I interviewed each officer in depth - their roles ranging from seasoned murder detectives, forensic experts, family liaison officers, and long serving beat bobbies. I found myself gripped by their experiences (sometimes so enthralled that I forgot to make notes!) and inspired by their strength. Luckily, I had the sense to record each interview, and was therefore able to listen back, noting the way they phrased things, the words they used.

It was paramount that I captured their inflection, their emotions and their spirit. I wanted the reader to become immersed in their world, to feel as if they were walking beside each officer as they read through the book.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The Real Happy Valley celebrates the women behind the warrant cardThe Real Happy Valley celebrates the women behind the warrant card (Image: Penguin)

The Real Happy Valley contains tough scenes, difficult incidents and often describes police officers responding to the worst moments of a person’s life. Included in the chapters are murder detectives - fighting for justice for their tragic victims; family liaison officers - supporting families through the loss of a loved one; uniformed officers - talking a potential suicide down from a ledge and one PC who had to fight for her life in a shocking assault on police.

Also included in the book is a chapter about the tragic murder of Bradford police constable Sharon Beshenivsky. I didn’t want to write a real-life book about Yorkshire policewomen without including Sharon, a mother of five, who was fatally shot whilst responding to a robbery. Some of the officers that I interviewed for the book knew Sharon, and despite their loss and the terrifying prospect of death on duty, they kept lacing up their boots, and standing in the way of danger, day after day.

Each woman that I have written about in The Real Happy Valley is a true inspiration to me. Despite the sometimes dark realities of life that are described in The Real Happy Valley, it is written to be an inspiring, uplifting book. A celebration of women in policing. Each chapter tells the story of one incident, case or investigation, and whilst some of the chapters make for difficult reading, each ends on a note of hope, or justice achieved.

These are real stories, told by real policewomen, and I hope that readers will enjoy treading the beat with them.

* The Real Happy Valley by Alice Vinten is published by Penguin, priced £8.99.