Tributes paid to pioneering Sussex Police officer

Janet Skeef was Sussex Police's first woman superintendent

TRIBUTES have been paid to a pioneering policewoman who helped smash the glass ceiling for female officers in Sussex.

The life of Superintendent Janet Skeef has been celebrated by friends, former colleagues and female police staff who followed in her footsteps.

Mrs Skeef became Sussex Police’s first ever female superintendent in 1968 and was also responsible for setting up the county’s policewomen department.

Mourners gathered to pay tribute to her historic achievements and inspiring personality at her funeral at the Downs Crematorium in Brighton yesterday following her death at the age of 86.

Current Sussex Police Chief Superintendent Di Roskilly described Mrs Skeef as

“a true pioneer” who played an important role in “shaping the history and landscape of women in policing in Sussex today”.

Mrs Skeef began her police service at Hastings in 1951 before being transferred to East Sussex Constabulary in 1954 where she was stationed at Hove.

First woman detective constable in the force

She was appointed the first woman detective constable in the force in 1956 and on the formation of the amalgamated Sussex Police 12 years later, she was promoted to be its first woman superintendent – the highest post that female officers could reach at that time.

During her time at the force she campaigned for the Superintendents Association to support equal pay and convinced bosses to allow women officers to ride lightweight motorcycles, ending the need for female officers relying on their male counterparts to attend assignments.

In the 1970s she married recruitment officer Joe Skeef who retired in 1976 after 25 years’ service and sadly predeceased her.

The British Association for Women in Policing highlighted Mrs Skeef as one of the country’s 100 pioneers during recent centenary celebrations of women in policing.


Following her retirement, she continued to pursue an interest in crime fighting as she served on the Ringmer Neighbourhood Watch committee for a number of years.

A resident of the Sussex village for more than 40 years, she died on Saturday July 2 in a nursing home in Barnham.

At her funeral yesterday, Mrs Roskilly told anecdotes highlighting Mrs Skeef’s forthrightness in putting forward her opinion, “her wicked sense of humour” and modesty in recognising the pioneering police officers that went before her.

She added:

“As a young girl who left school at 15 with no qualifications, working in a male dominated profession – Janet showed real ability, strength of character, tenacity and grit to achieve her role as the first woman superintendent in Sussex and our history would have been much poorer without her.

“She led the way and helped to make it possible for women like us to now enjoy our careers in policing, and we are extremely honoured to pay our respects to her.”

Janet Skeef began service at Hastings in 1951, transferred to East Sussex Constabulary in 1954 and was stationed at Hove. She was appointed to be the first Woman Detective Constable in the Force in 1956. On formation of the amalgamated Sussex Police in 1968, she was posted to Force Headquarters and promoted to be the first Woman Superintendent in the County. At the time of her retirement there were 182 women police officers. She has lived in Ringmer since 1974.

Ringmer Village Website

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