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Swale's district commander Rachel McNeil swapped banking for policing

There was a time when it was uncommon to see high-ranking women in the police force. But that has now changed.

London’s police force, the Met, is now led by a woman, Commissioner Cressida Dick. And now Swale’s is too, after Ch Insp Rachel McNeil was appointed the borough’s top cop.

The 45-year-old took over as district commander earlier this year and is based at Sittingbourne Police Station.

Chief Inspector Rachel McNeil - District Commander of Swale
Chief Inspector Rachel McNeil - District Commander of Swale

Born in Canterbury, she was brought up in Faversham and went to the Abbey School, leaving at 16 to set out on a decade-long career at NatWest bank.

Aged 25 she signed up to join the Specials – Kent’s volunteer police force – and discovered the excitement of patrolling Canterbury late at night. Within a year she had switched careers.

“No shift was ever the same,” she said. “I loved it. I knew I wanted to do a job where I helped people and this ticked all the boxes.

Chief Inspector Rachel McNeil is in charge of policing in Swale
Chief Inspector Rachel McNeil is in charge of policing in Swale

“It proves it is never too late to change jobs. If you want something badly enough you have to go after it and follow your heart. It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication but it has been worth it.

“I feel really blessed to be district commander of the area I grew up in. It’s like I have gone full circle.”

The mother-of-two says since she joined the police in 1999 the force has come along way in terms of equality.

To ensure that is maintained, she is now an executive member of the Kent Network of Women (Know) which primarily helps female officers but is also used as a support group for all officers and staff.

“The split between men and women has never been better,” she said. “Kent Police actively encourages opportunities irrespective of gender, race or religion.”

So could Ch Insp end up as Kent’s first woman Chief Constable?

“I want to stay here for the foreseeable future,” she said. “This district has high morale and is producing good work ensuring the most vulnerable are looked after.

“But I daresay I will seek further promotion later.”

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