Senior police officer accepts new assistant chief constable role in Durham
- Credit: Archant
A senior Suffolk policewoman is heading north for a new role after becoming the first female officer in the county to be promoted to the rank of assistant chief constable.
Chief Superintendent Tonya Antonis, who joined Suffolk police in 1996, is transferring to Durham Constabulary and will begin her new top role on February 28.
The 54-year-old, who has worked on a number of high-profile cases, including the Suffolk Strangler murders in Ipswich in 2006, said she is excited by her new challenge in the north-east.
She said: "I'm really proud and it feels a little bit surreal. It's a new opportunity and an exciting one too.
"I'll miss this beautiful county, I'll miss the people, and I'm leaving family and friends behind."
Much of Ch Supt Antonis' service over more than 25 years in the force has been in detective roles, with a particular focus on safeguarding and cyber crime.
"I spent a lot of time in safeguarding, particularly in child abuse investigations, and I think the work I did in that field was the most challenging but the most rewarding," she said.
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"When I look back and see the difference it made to children and families, and seeing some quite nasty individuals locked up for significant prison sentences, I would say they were my most rewarding times.
"We were all involved in the tragedy that goes back to 2006 with the murders of five women here in Ipswich. We had support from all over the country but I was a detective constable at the time and part of the suspect interview team.
"I would say I've had a footprint in quite a lot of high-profile cases over the 25 years. It's nice to look back and know I made a difference."
But she admits she was a late starter at catching criminals, first joining the force aged 29 following six years working for the East Anglian Daily Times in the early 1990s.
Ch Supt Antonis was previously based at the newspaper's former Lower Brook Street office in Ipswich selling advertising on the motors desk.
"If I'm honest that really toughened me up I think," she said.
"From the East Anglian, I went into policing so I think my experiences, and resilience from work before that really helped. They were happy times.
"I've always had an affection for the media because I think they've got a really challenging job."
Her achievements away from policing also include representing her country in triathlon. Ch Supt Antonis won silver at the 2010 Duathlon European Championships held in France.
"I didn't really like sport at school, but I found myself getting fit for policing and got into triathlon," she said.
"I was fortunate to be an age grouper for Great Britain over a number of years and it took me all over Europe. It was a really great thing to be involved in and be part of.
"I stopped competing about 10 years ago but I still keep myself fit. I had to do the bleep test in Durham so I'm so glad I've managed to keep my fitness levels up!"
In terms of changes to policing over the years, Ch Supt Antonis highlighted the digital landscape.
"When I look back to when I joined to now, I think the most significant change we've seen and had to adapt to is the digital technology," she said.
"When I joined, we didn't have mobile phones, so we weren't having to police the digital world.
"When you look now at every victim, every suspect, they've all got a huge media footprint and that needs an awful lot of skill and resource to investigate.
"What it then did was open the door to the huge increase in fraud and cyber crime.
"So I would say that's the most significant change and challenge, and continues to be a challenge, keeping up with that pace of change."
Ch Supt Antonis said she was pleased to see more women now gaining senior police roles.
"We see far more women in policing now, which is excellent and we're seeing more women in senior positions," she said.
"Nationally, we're seeing far more female chief constables. I think there are around 10 or 11 now out of 43 forces, and that's happened over the past couple of years.
"So I think the style of leadership is changing as well, with more women in senior positions.
"I've always felt very supported, so the support is there and I think it's recognised that we perhaps bring different things into policing."
She added: "I have loved every minute of my 25 plus years with Suffolk police, and I would do it all again."