Tracy O’Hara: Rising to the top in the face of misogyny and homophobia

After being inspired by female detectives on the TV as a child, Tracy O’Hara found her calling. Passionate about equality and with a desire to make a change Tracy gained a degree, became a police officer and is currently a detective with Merseyside Police.
Although this might seem like a cute story of a child with dreams to aspire to once she became an adult, this narrative would be far too simplistic. The reality is that Tracy’s story is one of overcoming struggles in her industry, not just because of her sex, but also her sexuality. The happy chapter of the story Tracy has now reached is through her own hard work and determination.

My Current Role

I work in serious crime within public protection (protecting vulnerable people). I have the only role in UK policing which sees a detective investigating crimes against sex workers. Those working within the sex work industry. It is a government-funded role within the violence against women and girls agenda. However, my role covers all genders and all people. I have done it for 12 months now.
I scope all crimes, intelligence regarding anything to do with sex work. This could be crimes reported, anything from assault to rape, to robbery or harassment, it could be intelligence around those targeting sex workers. If somebody has been arrested for a crime against a sex worker then I will interview, take on the case and compile a file to try and pursue a prosecution. I will act on intelligence. I attend meetings with partner agencies and local policing to progress our approaches to sex work. My police force is the only one in the country which treats crimes against sex workers as a hate crime so we are unique and I am proud of this
I’m very proud of myself for joining and the police and working hard to become a detective. I am able to passionately pursue equality at work and I am proud to say that I am making a difference. In 2017 I was named in the Queen’s Honours list, meaning that I got a queens police medal for distinguished services to LGBT+ matters in policing.

Barriers that I’ve faced

Although I got into policing to help others It’s fair to say that I’ve faced a lot of barriers throughout my own career. The biggest ones have been misogyny, homophobia and even those which I place in front of myself. So telling myself what I cannot do rather than what I can do… it is often perceived barriers rather than actual ones so again focus on the pluses, not the one or two negatives.
My inner strength encouraged me to make it through, only I can make it happen. Others can help you and support you but you have to motivate yourself. It’s crucial to look for inspiration, search for role models. They will continue to inspire you long into adulthood.

How I want to help

I want to be the role model I needed when I was young. Visible, friendly and out there so others can see that a working-class kid from Middlesbrough can be a career detective, solving serious crimes and putting serious offenders behind bars.
I am my authentic self, I am fair and I speak out for those without a voice. I am visible and stand up for all I believe in. I am accessible, I speak with many throughout policing to encourage them, to make sure they can.
I also coach a girls football team, under 12 and under 10 and I am the same with them. I want them to have a role model and know they can all be brilliant young women.
I’ve learned a lot in my career about how people react to matters associated with equality. It’s crucial to break down barriers in the workplace is crucial to encourage dialogue and keep people talking about things which can be perceived as difficult. Be open about your experiences so others can learn from it. I have allies at senior leadership – the major changes lie with the leaders who are prepared to do something to make a change, not simply be an ally.
Successful women in the police is something that we love to feature on #YesSheCan. If you’ve been inspired by Tracey’s story then make sure to read Anne’s blog about being a deputy chief constable.

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