Book Review: A Fair Cop
‘A Fair Cop: 1917-2017 Celebrating 100 years of policewomen in the West Midlands’ by Corinne Brazier and Steve Rice (2017)
This book consists of a highly detailed series of accounts from 1917-2017 concerning women serving in the West Midland Police Forces. Primarily centred on Birmingham, other cities in the WMP’s remit make appearances. The level of detail in this text is astounding, and its validity is only made more impressive as all the accounts are sourced from documents and artefacts available to view in the West Midlands Police Museum itself.
Reproduced photographs and copies of reports at the time offer rare insight into how women’s occupations in the Police grew and became as ubiquitous as we recognise today. The roots of this book begin when police forces (some more begrudgingly than others) began to accept and employ women in roles that would usually have been filled by men (who were at the time away fighting a war). A generation of women valiantly stepped up, and changed the course of history for policing in this country. Cities such as Birmingham with their size and population would have been highly difficult to police effectively with such depleted numbers. By the 1930s, other cities’ forces in the West Midlands had followed suit with their employment strategy. Women who fit the bill (pun intended) carried out such tasks most admirably.
‘A Fair Cop’ offers impressive insight into the duties of these women, and provides tables and statistics that break down the incidents that occurred and were subsequently dealt with by women officers. Biographies of a number of women police officers keep the history alive and relevant, and serves as a strength of the volume. The book also offers a look at the different roles that women fulfilled, from the early matrons of houses set up for the relief of women ‘leading immoral lives’ to more recent iterations of women in all manner of roles and full integration into the force.
The book is enjoyable and written lovingly by writers who have a passion for and important connection to their source material, as volunteers at the WMP Museum. The text is easily digestible, which is to be congratulated as the temptation to lose oneself in Policing jargon must have been ever-present. Instead Brazier and Rice have produced an accessible format that stays consistently interesting.
Kevin Hoffin MA PGCE FHEA
Lecturer in Criminology
Birmingham City University