Hunted star Dani Brooke on the real-life dangers of working as an undercover police officer.
You’ve written about your 10 years with the Metropolitan Police. How was it looking back?
It might sound strange but, looking back, I think I would never do any of that now. I’m a scaredy cat now! I over-think everything, panic and worry a lot but I think that’s just part of growing up.
What was it like joining at 18?
I didn’t have much life experience because I joined so young. I always felt like nothing bad would ever happen to me on a job because I was a police officer, which now seems naive and stupid. I never considered what might happen. My daughter is 18 now and has the exact same mentality.
You were one of the UK’s most deployed female covert operatives. What did you like about working undercover?
I liked putting on a different persona. When I was having a rough time during my first marriage it meant I could escape real life and be someone else for a while. I liked the pressure of thinking “am I going get what I need?”.
Did you ever feel underestimated?
I think everyone I infiltrated thought I was too stupid to be a police officer. If I had a pound for every time someone said ‘You’re not a police officer, are you?’ and I’d reply ‘Oh my gosh, I would love to be a police lady, that’d be so much fun!’
I would be very rich. People underestimated me but it helped to keep my cover. I once infiltrated a Turkish gang dealing drugs in East London and the main guy we were after was actually on the phone asking me out on a date at the moment they were raided.
What was your toughest undercover job?
Early in my undercover career, I had to follow a school route dressed in school uniform to catch a paedophile wanted for about 100 offences. He actually attacked me. My colleagues were there immediately and, at the time, I felt good because I was glad it was me and not a child.
How did you find juggling being a mum and the job?
I had only been serving for three years when I had my daughter Amelia. Balancing what I thought was motherhood and my career was stressful. I couldn’t get childcare to fit around my shift patterns so I relied on my parents.
I hated going back to work after 12 weeks, even though I missed the job. Now, having left, I regret missing things like the school run and school plays. When my youngest, Albert, was born I decided juggling the job and being a mum wasn’t for me. I had a horrible pregnancy so took a career break in 2013 then moved to France.
Did you ever face any misogyny in the police?
Never. My team was predominantly male so we did have banter but I like to think I gave it back as much as I got it and I never was offended.
Do you think there are enough senior positions for women?
Not many women want to work in covert because the nature of the work and the hours are not pleasant. The police force is under huge pressures now but they’ve just assigned Lynn Owens as the new assistant commissioner. She’s very well respected so I think she’s going to make a huge difference.
How did you get involved in the Channel 4 show Hunted?
A former police officer friend got me on it. I wasn’t sure about being on TV at first but it was a great experience. Spending six weeks of the year on the road and hunting people was good fun and it’s how I met my partner Ben, a former British Intelligence Officer.
You both still work together?
We live in Spain with Amelia and Albert and run a cyber-security company. We also team up as keynote speakers so we have a Mr and Mrs Smith thing going on, which is a bit cringey but people seem to like it!
What advice do you have for young women wanting to join the police?
Just go for it. If I can do it, anyone can.
The Girl For The Job by Danni Brooke is published by Macmillan, out now
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