Sarah - Protective Service Officer

How many years have you worked as a PSO?

I have been working as a Protective Service Officer (PSO) for over 2 years.

What did you do before becoming a PSO?

Prior to my role as a PSO I worked for 9 years an Administration Assistant at the AFP Headquarters.

Why did you first apply to be a PSO?

Even though I enjoyed the work I felt I was after something more. My kids were getting older and shift work was an option that I felt comfortable with considering. I liked the idea of having a uniform (because buying new clothes then having to match clothes was a painful process) and I enjoyed working outdoors. The more thought I put into policing the more keen I became. I then made the decision to submit an application. I then started to prepare myself to meet the requirement of the job.

In early 2016, I applied for a Base recruit/PSO vacancy and I was successful in the Gateways. I was offered a position on a PSO course in September 2016. Initially I was disappointed because I was set on the Base Recruit (Policing) course. After consideration and consultation with people I had worked with over the years I thought, what do I have to lose, it is more experience and what a great stepping stone to becoming a Federal Agent. The course was only 3 months in Canberra as a PSO as opposed to 6 months for Policing. The positives outweighed the negatives so I accepted. I graduated in December 2016 and I commenced working as a PSO.

Take us through an average day on shift

I typically work on a rotating roster, covering 12 hour day and night shifts - 24 hours a day 7 days a week, 365 days a year. At my current station, a normal day starts with getting ready in uniform with all accoutrements before sitting down to a team briefing given by the Sergeant. The briefing contains relevant information in relation to intelligence and operational activity, and any administrational information that needs highlighted.

After the briefing, teams head out on foot, bike and/or vehicle patrols and provide a high visibility presence in our station surrounds. We respond to incidents with the support of the NSW Police and support is also provided to Defence with training days.

What are some of the challenges of the job?

The job can be both high and low tempo and the shift work is hard, especially if you have children and a long commute. The night shifts are particularly hard but once you get a routine it does becomes easier. The money is good and the time off is amazing.

Depending on your shift, it usually consists of 4 or 5 days on (working) followed by 4 or 5 days off.

How does shift work impact you, and your social life?

I honestly prefer the shift work, it works for me and I have more time off to attend school events for my kids. I work some weekends, but days off through the week make up for it.

Why should more women think about a career in the AFP as a PSO?

If you are thinking of a career within the AFP, becoming a PSO is a great place to start. The flexible working arrangements allow me to have more time to spend with my family and attend school sporting events. Also having week days off gives me the chance to do my own hobbies, housework and the shops are quieter.

Can you describe the job in three words?

Flexible, official, unique.

What training opportunities are available to you after the initial recruit training course?

Loads of training opportunities, since working as a PSO I have done external training such as St John's First Aid and Lifeline dealing with people in difficult situations, as well as internal courses such as Incident Command and Control Systems (ICCS). In addition to the courses advertised by the AFP I undertake distance education through TAFE which has been approved and partly funded through the AFP.

What is one misconception people may have about PSO's?

That PSO's do not have powers to arrest. PSO's do.

What's one thing that has stuck with you from your recruit course that you use every day?

Your voice and body language is a powerful tool, it can escalate and deescalate a situation in a matter of seconds.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a potential new recruit?

The advice I would give to a new recruit is to read the information available to you about the AFP, prepare yourself to be physically and mentally fit to meet the gateways. Do not be jaded if you are not successful the first time, apply again and again. I did it 4 times.

Once in the job, be flexible and make the most of any opportunities presented to you. You will not regret it. It truly is a great job and you can make it work for you.

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