When Julie Fry left the Island after spending the first three years of her career in the Police Force here, she made a promise to herself that one day she would return in a senior position.
Now some 20 years later that pledge has been fulfilled, with Julie having recently taken up the role of Chief Inspector of IW Police, based in Newport. She came back to the Island in April after a variety of posts on the mainland, during which time she climbed the promotion ladder to Sergeant, Inspector and then Chief Inspector.
“I was happy and excited about coming back, because the one thing about the Island is that you can make a difference,” she said. “I love my job and I love the opportunity to positively affect the community. This is a new challenge that I am enjoying, and I am really pleased to be back. I have still got so much to learn here, and this is a great opportunity for me.
“I really want to get a grip of this and do a good job. I like high standards, ethics and integrity. I don’t like lying, cheating and criminality, or my staff to embarrass me. I like us to do a good job as best we can, and where we don’t get it right, if we know about it, I want to recover it as quick as possible.
“I want there to be fewer victims of crime here and I want the community to trust and have confidence that we will take them seriously and deal with incidents as best we can.”
Julie was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s honours for her community work, and says: “It is amazing that people have felt the work I’ve done has been worthy of it, and it was a very proud moment for me receiving it from the Queen. I was only one of two women there in uniform, so I didn’t have to go out shoes and hat buying!”
Julie was born in Southampton, and went to school there before attending Itchen College. As young lady who excelled in a variety of sports, particularly athletics and hockey, the idea of becoming a PE teacher was uppermost in her mind.
“I didn’t attend university because I was not a natural academic and I just wanted to get out there and work,” she reflected. “Eventually I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be a police officer or a PE teacher, although I did fancy the idea of being paid to do sport. I was a good all-rounder at sport.
“My dad was a good cricketer, and was always encouraging me to turn my hand to all sports. So long before girls played football at schools and colleges as they do now, I was able to do it.”
But hockey was Julie’s real sporting passion, and after playing for Southampton, she graduated to Hampshire County level, and later represented British Police. However, sensing that a career as a teacher would mean a further four years in education, Julie was swayed towards the police force. Before making the final decision she walked into a Careers Office in Southampton to see if a job in the Armed Forces was for her. She soon found herself at Biggin Hill doing the officer assessment for the RAF, but realised it was not for her, so did what she had been threatening for some time – and put in an application to join Hampshire Police. Her application, submitted in February 1989, took 14 months to process, so just a couple of days after her 20th birthday she was accepted into the force. And shortly afterwards she was heading for her first posting on the Isle of Wight.
“I don’t think I had ever been to the Island before, although I may just have been over here at some time to play a game of hockey. I remember coming over here a couple of days before I started and going out with my mum and buying those essential provisions. I was very excited, but also nervous and apprehensive,” she recalled.
“Initially it was all quite strange and disjointed. I was the youngest on the shift by 10 years and didn’t have a lot in common with some people. I had left that social, sport element to come here, so I spent a lot of money going back to Southampton to play hockey, only because there was not even an astro-turf pitch here – apart from in one of the prisons!”
However, Julie soon adapted to Island life, working for two years on Tactical Policing Teams, as they are now known, before moving to Carisbrooke as a ‘beat bobby’. She said: “I particularly enjoyed Carisbrooke. We would be out on foot patrol all night, and it gave me great grounding and experience. The uniqueness of the Island is that anything that happened in the area affected the community personally. Consequently you have the opportunity to make a real difference. I met a lot of kind, welcoming people who looked out for me as a young, new officer.”
Julie recalls how she even made the national newspapers after being on duty in St James Square, Newport one New Year’s Eve when a bottle was thrown at her and she was cut on the shin while she was making an arrest.
After three years on the Island Julie returned to the mainland to work at Southsea, but vividly remembers that she told herself – and a couple of officers within earshot – that one day she would come back here as a boss. She said: “I think there was that secret little passion somewhere inside me.”
It took her a considerable amount of time as she criss-crossed Hampshire, gaining valuable experience in a variety of police roles, but often experiencing a totally different culture to what she had enjoyed on the Island. She smiled: “Over here people spoke to you; over there they just grunted at you.”
Her assignments included ‘beat bobby’ in the Eastney district of Portsmouth – where she could still see the Isle of Wight as she walked up the esplanade. She then became a student development recruitment officer, during which time she also took and passed her sergeant’s exam in 1999. That led to a posting to Eastleigh as an operational response sergeant, and later a custody sergeant.
Julie also became involved in recruitment at Netley before taking on a specialist diverse community officer’s role, having already assumed an additional position of lesbian and gay liaison officer for Hampshire.
She was promoted to the New Forest in 2006 as a Safer Neighbourhood Inspector and said: “It was going back to basics and linking in with communities, and I loved it. That goes down as one of the best two years in my career.”
Then came a spell as Force Control Inspector during which time she did the spontaneous firearms commanders’ and was responsible for managing firearms incidents, a period which she describes as a ‘steep learning curve, but a fantastic development opportunity’.
The job of her dreams then came up in learning development as an initial training inspector in 2010, a position she held until promotion boards elevated her to her Chief Inspector, which resulted in being posted back to the Island in April.
Although Julie still lives in Southampton, and commutes each day, she has quickly fitted back into the Island lifestyle, and as a self-confessed ‘team player’ is proud to head an energetic and passionate team of officers that endeavour to make this a safe and enjoyable place to live, work or visit.
She added with a smile: “I love my family, and my escapism is my dog Gem and watching fairly trash television, but not Eastenders! I don’t know what the future holds, who knows? I suppose it is whatever the Chief Constable decides is good for Julie Fry – that’s what I suggest.”