PCSO Kirti Patel shunned all ideas of winding down or planning for retirement, and instead swapped a phone and a desk, for a uniform and radio 14 years ago.
But now as she starts to look towards her imminent retirement, Kitty, as she's affectionately known, has been reflecting on her overall service of 20 years with West Midlands Police – which included six years in the force contact centre before moving across into neighbourhood policing.
Having celebrated her 64th birthday in April, Kitty will be retiring next month – however before she leaves, she is keen to get the message out to people who are more mature and wanting a career in the police to not be afraid of applying.
West Midlands Police has recruited 11 PCSOs aged 45 and over in the past two years – and now Kitty, who is British Indian, is keen not just for more mature people to get involved, but also for more women and people from ethnic minorities to see their future in policing.
She said: "Communications skills are vital.
"The key thing in this role is engagement and a big part of this is having the ability to communicate effectively – it’s so important because we do often have to reach out to people when they in a difficult situation, as well as getting key messages out to the community.”
While policing is about protecting people, preventing crime and helping those in need, Kitty says it’s also about showing kindness, empathy and friendship.
Kitty said: "Empathy is the glue that holds a community together – respect and kindness are the best medicine in the world and are totally free. Be humble and kind always.
"Refrain from being judgemental as we haven’t walked in people's shoes and can't understand their struggles.”
Kitty, who refers to herself as a ‘seenager’ – a senior teenager - started working for West Midlands Police in 2001 as a central switchboard operator, however at the age 50 decided on a career change.
She remembers seeing a job advert for the PCSO role and decided to take the chance and support communities in person instead of being the person who is first contact, at the end of a phone.
Anyone who is interested in following Kitty into policing, can register for job alerts on our website to hear when a particular type of role or career path is open for applications, such as PCSO vacancies.
For more information, visit wmp.referrals.selectminds.com/user/settings