When you see Chief Inspector Kate Brookes stand confidently in front of a group of police officers at the British National College of Police Leadership talking about the new Police Crime Commissioners and the increasing need for change in British police forces, it takes a leap of imagination to visualise her in another dimension of her rich life – looking after a herd of alpacas on her beautiful farm in Devon. Kate was in the UK police since she joined as a cadet in London’s Metropolitan Force at age 17, and in November 2012 she left after 32 years in a police uniform.
“Leaving the police is the only career plan I’ve had in my life”, she tells me. “I’ve gone through my career doing things, rather than planning things. But now I want to make choices about what I do. Now I am ready to have my time. I want to grow and expand as a person, I want to be creative at work as well as at home”, she tells me clearly.
Kate seems to me very well-prepared for this big transition in her life, though it doesn’t feel that way to her. She says she could have drifted into retirement, but woke up 14 months ago and realised she needed to take some control of what was happening to her. She’s taken advantage of the police’s schemes for pre-retirement, doing courses on managing finance, life options, becoming self-employed and job seeking skills. She adds, “I am both excited and daunted by this change. It’s very important to me to know what I’m going to do when I leave. And though I know what I’m going to be doing, I don’t know what I am going to be”. Thoughtfully she tells me, “The identity you share with others is usually work-related, when you are of working age. I do want to work, but I want to choose what I do, rather than be told by others”.
Kate has also spent the last 12 months following her own agenda of getting trained as a coach to support people in different transitions. She tells me, “I have a fabulously happy life but coaching really means something to me because it enables and empowers people to put things right for themselves.” This philosophy extends to other parts of her life too: “I love alpacas, and I breed only friendly ones!” she laughs. “ People want to buy them from me but I only sell them to people who want friendly alpacas. I am spreading the “alpaca word”, rather than generating income from them”.
Having spent most of her working life in uniform going where the job dictated Kate now wants to give something back to her family. “I’ve always worked full-time, and quite often lived away from home”. She’s married to Simon, a consultant in the green energy field who she describes as “a
saint”. “The power dynamic will change when I leave the police. Simon has always enabled me to do what I need to do a demanding job. I can’t expect him now to just take more time off because I’ll have more time available. There is a potential for Simon and me to become hermits, but we’re quite conscious of that and we’re pretty confident we’re not going to let it happen”.
What with her ideas for setting up non-profit bassoon weekends for interested fellow bassoonists at her farmhouse, doing up a holiday home in Scotland, fundraising for charity though the Police Orchestra, providing debt counselling though the Citizens Advice Bureau, keeping up her excellent fitness levels through swimming, walking and working on the farm AND setting up a coaching business, we don’t anticipate Kate turning into a hermit just yet!
We will follow Kate’s progress in her new life and revisit her in a year’s time to find out how this Time of Her Life is working out for her.
Kate’s Prime Time Tips are:
- Take control and get prepared for the change
- Be realistic and recognise the complete change to your lifestyle
- Recognise the change impacts your partner as well as you