'Privilege to serve' - dedicated police inspector retires after 30 years
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
She leaves a police force barely recognisable from the one she joined as a fresh-faced Pc on September 16 1991.
But as she retires following a remarkable 30-year career, Suffolk is saying a sad farewell to one of its most dedicated and experienced officers who has truly made a lifetime's difference to fighting crime.
Insp Becky Kidd-Stanton - Suffolk's longest-serving inspector - had her heart set on a police career from a young age, turning down the chance to go to university to apply to join the boys in blue at 18 and a half years old.
And in those days, it very much was the boys in blue - since female officers were few and far between at any constabulary.
When she began her training at the old HMS Ganges site at Shotley, tutored by Pc 317 Douglas Paxton - who later became Suffolk chief constable - women were not even allowed to wear trousers, only skirts.
She would have to wait a year before trousers were first issued to female officers in 1992 - but even then, strict rules meant they could only be worn on night duty during inclement weather.
While men were issued with wooden truncheons to protect themselves, women were given no body armour or defensive equipment whatsoever. Incredibly, they had to make do with just a handbag.
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With a tough regime of seven early, late or night shifts in a row, Insp Kidd-Stanton said the majority of women who joined the police at that time left when they had children. With no option for flexible working, there were few ways of balancing motherhood alongside the job.
Yet WPc Kidd-Stanton, as she was then, was determined to make a difference and change lives in Suffolk for the better.
There were certainly plenty of challenges along the way, not least when she was called to a famous armed robbery at Sudbury's former Gateway supermarket while on foot patrol on September 3, 1992.
Jamie Howard and Jim Lewin were shot in a scene that was more like an action movie - and when WPc Kidd-Stanton arrived, she found Mr Howard wounded on the pavement having bravely chased the gunman before being shot in the stomach.
Both victims, thankfully, survived - and the young officer said: "It didn’t put me off continuing my career in policing."
After nearly six years in uniform, she became Det Con Kidd-Stanton with a move to Ipswich CID at the old Civic Drive police station - the first in a variety of roles which would see her gain a wide level of experience across the force.
She was the only woman detective on the team, which had only one computer for the whole office - a machine only used to input and update crimes.
In her early years, everything was hand-written and then typed by administrative support staff - hard to believe in today's age of Zoom calls and instant messaging, with officers able to file reports remotely from mobile phones and tablets.
"I dealt with a number of complex investigations at this time including blackmails, robberies, sexual offences, serious assaults," she said of her time in CID.
"It is true when you hear people say that some of these cases stay with you.
"You can’t just forget them when you go home, but what you do learn along the way are coping mechanisms."
In April 1999, she was promoted to sergeant for Ipswich West - saying: "Your first team as a sergeant will always be special" - and later patrol Sergeant in Sudbury, before becoming community beat sergeant for Ipswich East.
In May 2002, she was promoted again to inspector in Suffolk police's control room - a job she described as "highly pressurised" but said: "A role I feel every inspector should undertake, as it enables you to see a county wide view of the demands policing."
After returning from maternity leave in October 2003 following the birth of her first son, she said she was "warmly welcomed" by residents as senior commander for Bury rural.
Despite going on to other roles, such as setting up the vetting unit at Suffolk police headquarters and custody inspector at Bury police investigation centre, community policing has often felt like Insp Kidd-Stanton's most natural calling.
She perhaps became best known for her work as a licensing inspector from 2008, where she worked with a range of organisations to set up the Night Time Economy Team and the Best Bar None scheme for Ipswich to help keep more people safe.
In what she described as "one of the most rewarding roles of my career", she also helped set up the town's Taxi Marshall scheme and helped Ipswich to win a Purple Flag for its evening and night-time economy.
"We worked hard as a team to holistically approach issues such as street drinking, night-time economy related violence, sexual offences and anti-social behaviour and sexual exploitation," Insp Kidd-Stanton said.
"As a response officer, you are responding to emerging situations in a very dynamic way.
"With community policing, you are responding to things that are affecting people's live on a daily basis but problem-solving and looking at the root causes.
"Problem-solving is a key priority for me, as that's how I feel we can make the most difference to the community."
According to her colleagues, she has made a huge impact in the communities where she has served.
Det Supt Kerry Cutler, who has been Insp Kidd-Stanton's boss for much of her career, said: "Becky would be the first key component I would list if asked to describe what delivered success in community policing.
"Her enthusiasm for people, her job and the wider community is exemplary."
In particular, Det Supt Cutler praised her response to youth gang violence and said: "Becky is the foremost expert in the county in regards of licensing-related issues and has made a positive difference to tackling alcohol related crime and anti-social behaviour through the work she has done.
"She was very supportive of a problem-solving approach to dealing with street drinkers, which were rating as a very high-profile community issue in the town centre. This method of joint working to tackle street drinking still remains within Ipswich.
"Her leadership of people is outstanding. I am proud to say I have worked with Becky. She is inspiring."
Insp Kidd-Stanton - a previous winner of Police Person of the Year at the Stars of Suffolk Awards - is finishing her career in a community-based role, where she oversees a number of officers and teams working on issues such as hate crime, modern slavery, school liaison and youth engagement.
"The individuals on my team are specialists across a range of areas within policing and do all that they can to support victims of crime and the wider community," she said.
Det Supt Cutler said Insp Kidd-Stanton has helped to create a Hate Crime Network across the county to listen to groups across Suffolk, as well as internal scrutiny processes to improve the quality of hate crime investigations.
However, in addition to her already large repertoire, Insp Kidd-Stanton has supported colleagues as a Suffolk Police Federation representative and as deputy chairwoman of the Suffolk Association of Women in Policing.
She has also spent seven years as a trained hostage negotiator.
Now aged 49, Insp Kidd-Stanton says to everyone on her team that: "People should always be your highest priority. Focus on looking after people - the public, partners or colleagues - and everything else will follow."
She added: "I have been lucky enough to work for some inspirational people and work on some great teams who care for each other and simply want to do the best job they possibly can. Many of these are friends as well as colleagues.
"It has been a pleasure and a privilege to serve the public of Suffolk for 30 years."