THE BIG INTERVIEW: Making the world a little bit better
Lee Hare, 33, and Kate Jackson-Collier, 36, are Wiltshire Police Community Support Officers and Unison LGBT officers. On Saturday they were among the police contingent taking part in Swindon Pride and flying the rainbow flag. Both live in Swindon and are members of the police team patrolling the northern part of the town...
LEE Hare and Kate Jackson-Collier have been PCSOs for eight years and are firm friends since meeting early in the recruitment process.
Both intended to become regular police officers but both decided to remain PCSOs instead – and for identical reasons.
Lee worked for eight years for Nationwide and briefly in human resources before joining. He’d studied IT at New College and photography at Swindon College. His mother is a retired auxiliary nurse, his father a retired manager and his stepfather a pharmaceutical worker.
Kate studied Leisure and Tourism at Swindon College and worked at venues including the Oasis. Her father worked for WHSmith and her mother in various professions including gardening. Kate is the elder of two sisters.
Lee said: “As a youngster I always wanted to work for the police, although there were other things I wanted to be – an RSPCA inspector, a graphic designer.
“It sounds cheesy but I wanted to help people – get the baddies off the street and everybody can live happily ever after.
“Being a community support officer is like a stepping stone. A lot of people become community support officers to see how the police work. You learn the ins and outs of policing, see what your police officer colleagues do and then, when recruitment opens, quite a lot will apply to become a police officer.
“However, that changed for me because I like doing the more community-focused stuff.
“Response police officers are reactive whereas we do a lot of proactive stuff. So we work with schools, for example. I’ve been in the job for eight years so a lot of the children I saw when they were in primary school have now left secondary school.
“You know the faces, you know the names and they know you because they’ve grown up with you coming to their schools.”
Kate has a similar story: “I always wanted to be a police officer.
“Ever since I was young I always wanted to do it. I wanted to do it for work experience at school and there was only one place. We had to flip a coin and I ended up at Cotswold Wildlife Park, which was brilliant!
“I always said I’d be a do this job [PCSO] for two years and then join as a regular, but I enjoyed this job so much that I stayed.
“For me, it reminds me of old school policing. You’re out in a community, the community knows who you are by name, and you patrol that area every shift. We go out on our bikes, which is a great way to engage with the public.
“We go out on foot – the car can be a bit of a barrier sometimes so we tend to try to use other means to get out there and engage with people.”
Like Lee, she especially enjoys working with schools.
“It’s one of the areas I’ve always enjoyed. We do lots of assemblies for children about safety. We do drug and alcohol awareness, we do stranger danger, road safety, internet safety. We talk about our jobs, we do community assemblies.”
This strong sense of community engagement is a major factor in their involvement with Pride.
Lee came out as gay at 17 and Kate as bisexual at 20. The two pioneered the Wiltshire Police presence at last year’s Pride, and police and union bosses were so impressed that a bigger showing was promised for the 2014 celebration.
Lee said: “Our main role that Unison have brought us in for is to have somebody who is aware of any issues that might be going on in the LGBT community.
“Should anybody have issues at work then we would be their representatives for that issue.
“The biggest way to get to the LGBT community in Swindon and Wiltshire is by Pride.
“Last year we had people coming up to us in the car as we were driving through, saying it was amazing and we were doing a really good job.”
Kate added: “People wanted photographs.”
Lee is the Unison LGBT officer and Kate the deputy officer.
Discrimination against LGBT people seems to be on the wane – at least in this country – but it is far from being a thing of the past.
“Yes, it’s come a long way,” said Lee, “but hate crimes and discrimination still exist, which is why we have to be there.”
Kate added: “Abuse still goes on today. Last year I was in Brighton with my partner and somebody shouted out of their car window. I can’t even remember what they said, but you just think, ‘I’m in Brighton, the gay capital of the UK, and in a known gay area, and you have people like that shouting at us out of the window. That’s happened twice.”
“We’ve come on in leaps and bounds but there are still problems.”
Lee said: “I’d like to see more and more people taking part in Pride. “I think maybe people think you have to be part of the LGBT community to support that group or walk in the parade, but you don’t. As long as you are against discrimination and hate crime you should be there.”