A community police officer who battled breast cancer and was appointed an MBE is retiring after 30 years of protecting the public.
When Constable Hazel Goss, 53, joined the Metropolitan Police in 1987, policing and crime was in a very different place to today.
Latest figures show that today there are about 36,000 female officers in England and Wales, or just over 28 per cent of the total, but three decades ago women officers were still being issued with official handbags with small truncheons designed to fit inside.
“It was very male and chauvinistic,” says Hazel, who moved to North Wales in 1993 and has been based in Mold ever since.
“The men would do the interviews and because women had better handwriting we would do the notes.
“If any children came into the police station we would have to look after them and we used to get a stocking allowance because we had to wear skirts then!”
Three decades on a lot has changed both in society and in the Force and Hazel, who is originally from Liverpool, is in reflective mood as she prepares for retirement.
“I always wanted to do something with the community,” she says, when I ask why she decided to become a policewoman.
“I know it’s a bit of a cliche about wanting to help the public but that’s what I wanted to do. I love people and I’ve always got satisfaction from helping others.
“When I joined it felt like we were there to serve the public, walking the beat and we were happy to talk to people. We were happy to be out there but nowadays I don’t get the same impression of police officers.
“I don’t think I’d be joining now – there’s been too many changes.”
Chief among these changes have been cuts and a reduction in police numbers, which have fallen sharply under Theresa May’s time as Home Secretary between 2010 and 2016 and then as Prime Minister.
Since 2010, the number of police officers in England and Wales fell from a peak of 144,353 in 2009 to 122,859 in 2016.
At the same time the number of specialist armed police officers has fallen from a peak of 6,796 in 2010 to 5,639 in 2016.
Chief constables have faced the dilemma of cutting back on neighbourhood policing teams to balance the books, with Hazel lamenting this move away from the Force’s traditional values.
“You have to change with the times,” she says. “But every day for me was a learning curve and I think some of the youngsters today have a bit of an attitude. They won’t think outside of the box and I think too many young people are becoming police too quickly.
“After 30 years I think I’m still learning but people come in now through fast-track schemes and they haven’t had the experience of being on the streets. You get your knowledge by being on the streets but the Government want people with degrees who’ve never been on the street. I’m sorry but it doesn’t work that way.”
Hazel’s finest hour came in 2013 when she was named in the New Year honours as an MBE recipient for her services to the police.
“I’d had a letter about my electricity and I thought it was another one of those when it came through the door.” she laughs.
“Then I thought it was my sister winding me up so I put it back in the envelope and ignored it. When I looked at it again I saw the post code and the stamp and the parchment it was written on and the wording and I thought my sister wouldn’t even know what these words meant!
“It was given to me by Prince Charles which was great because of the Welsh connection, but what I really remember is that you are continually being videoed while you’re there.
“At one point my dad said he had to go to the toilet and of course he managed to get lost. When we looked back at the footage you could see my dad wandering around the Palace, looking for the toilets!”
In 2004, Hazel received devastating news when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but her battle with the disease proved inspirational and won the support of her colleagues and the community she served.
“When I found out I had breast cancer my whole life changed,” she says. “It was very serious and I ended up going through a mastectomy and chemotherapy and then got deep vein thrombosis
“When I was really poorly they wouldn’t let me into work, but in between treatment I would go in for a few hours and do bits and bobs to keep my brain active.
“I can’t praise the [former] Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom enough. He came to see me and had coffees with me and gave me things to do which I could do at home.”
At one point Hazel and her husband, retired police officer Adrian Goss, presented a cheque for £1,184.18 to Clatterbridge Cancer Campaign, which was raised by her colleagues through sponsored walks and 24-hour football matches.
In 2005 she was honoured with the North Wales Police Federation Community Service Award.
“I think I’ll be best remembered as a beat officer,” she says. “It was while I was there that I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I had great support from the community in Shotton and Aston.
“No one’s been able to fill my shoes down there and they still ask when Hazel’s coming back!”
Despite only finishing her final shift last week, Hazel is already making plans for the future.
“I’ve got my garden to sort out and I’m redecorating the house,” she adds. “I’ve registered my CV on local job sites but I only want to do something I really want to do.
“I’m a crime prevention specialist so if people have problems with security I could advise companies and businesses.
“Through your career with the police you see horrible things especially road traffic accidents – there are a lot of fights, injuries and heartbreak, but I feel like I could do another 20 years.”