Sunday 22 May 2016
Jean Wigmore, who joined the Hampshire police force in 1978, remembers an initiation ritual known as “the station stamp”. It was performed by policemen on new Women Police Constables in the bar of the Portsmouth station where she worked, and involved “being bent over the snooker table, skirts lifted and pants pulled down, therefore baring one’s backside and possibly other stuff, and having the station stamp inked over the backside”.
When Jean Wigmore joined aged 20, women police officers had only recently been merged with the main force and were vastly outnumbered. “I found out I was classified as shift meat,” she says. “Basically I was there for amusement. They felt that they could do anything to me.
“I would be stooped over a desk writing up a report and someone would walk past, push my head towards the table and make as they were doing doggy fashion behind me, banging their body up against me. Or when as I was walking down the corridor, as they walked past male colleagues would just grab my breasts.
“I just had to put up with it. I had no redress. The fact that I used to go home in tears is neither here nor there but I couldn’t show them any form of weakness.” The only way in which she could earn respect was by proving herself physically. Her first exposure to violence came when the police were called to a fight at an engagement party. “I walked in and got hit straight in the face. I stood my ground. It was pretty sad that no matter what my skills were, the actual crux of it was, was I any good in a punch-up?
That’s how I was assessed.”
She says it took a dozen years for the police to introduce female welfare officers with whom she and others could raise concerns. Up until then WPCs were on their own. “If I could sue now for stuff that happened to me back then I would be a very rich person.”
She left the police after 32 years and even now says she feels guilty bringing up these historic abuses. “I feel I’m being disloyal to the police. This is the irony. It’s like you get institutionalised.”
In 1978 she was always the token woman in a male workplace, Wigmore made sure she never experienced the police’s so-called station stamp.
“I had to tell them that if they came anywhere near me I would effing well rip their balls off,” she says.