RIDING HIGH: Toogoolawah police officer Claire Heptinstall and her horse at the Toogoolawah Show. PHOTO: Supplied.
RIDING HIGH: Toogoolawah police officer Claire Heptinstall and her horse at the Toogoolawah Show. PHOTO: Supplied.

Life in the saddle as a female cop isn’t always easy

IF you saw Claire Heptinstall competing with her horses, you probably wouldn't pick her as a cop - but her community would.

It's a trait she's developed, developing a close-nit relationship with her community while having the ability to diffuse a potentially volatile situation through communicating.

Being a cop isn't a job for everyone, Senior Constable Heptinstall says, but for those who have what it takes, they have the ability to make a difference.

And being a female cop isn't easy, there's physical limitations - but there's also advantages.

"Being small in stature can be a positive because I'm not seen as intimidating," Snr Const Heptinstall said.

"I think having a female accessible to the community provides a maternal supportive role, which is necessary for some investigations and dealing with sensitive issues."

Prior to joining the Queensland Police Service, Snr Const Heptinstall was a high school teacher.

Having developed a good understanding of working in the community, she searched for a job that would provide a meaningful career.

"Everyone says they joined to make a difference. But I joined the police service because I wanted a meaningful career," she said.

That was back in 2011, where she was first posted to Toowoomba.

In 2017, Snr Const Heptinstall relocated to Toogoolawah's two-person station alongside local Sergeant John Cumner.

Today, Snr Const Heptinstall makes up about 30 per cent of women involved in the police service.

Plenty has changed since the first female was inducted into the service, where they would carry guns in their handbags.

But for Snr Const Heptinstall, she finds working in a small community the most rewarding.

"Small communities learn to trust you and rely on you - I don't experience much of that negative opinion of a female police officer like they do in the city," she said.

However, being a police officer, whether you're a man or woman, has its challenges.

"You sacrifice a large proportion of your home life and social life to be a cop," Snr Const Heptinstall said.

"Shift-work can be difficult, but its also a job you always take home with you. You never stop being a cop."

That's why the senior constable's love for horses is so important.

If she's not working, Snr Const Heptinstall can be found with her five horses often out competing in stock horse events and local ag shows.

"Having hobbies and interests outside the police service is good for maintaining a healthy attitude towards life," she said.

"Being able to escape and spend time with the horses gives me that refresher and recharge to be positive."