Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick believes being “a bit different” has encouraged others who “feel different” to join the force.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Ms Dick, Britain’s most senior police officer, said being female and openly gay made unlikely recruits think they too could “have a go” at policing.
But she said her sexuality was “one of the least interesting things about me”.
She also said female police officers should make up half the force.
She said: “The fact that I am seen as a bit different in some respects, I realise, on some occasions, makes young people think ‘I could have a go’ or ‘I might try; I feel different but I might try’.”
She said she hoped the that a lot of women are among the new recruits, to ensure a more balanced male/female divide.
“In the long term, in order for us to have the best of the best, I would like it to be 50/50,” she told Lauren Laverne, who hosts the show.
But she added that she did not think it would be achieved during her tenure.
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Ms Dick recalled how she became a police officer at the age of 23, after a spell working in a fish and chip shop with a man who kept a baseball bat behind the counter.
In the early days, she patrolled London’s West End, including the Soho area – traditional home of London’s sex trade.
“I loved the idea that at three or four in the morning it was just me there.
“That is the great thing about policing, you do have a lot of responsibility very early and you have got to make decisions – sometimes life-and-death decisions – very quickly.
“There is something about putting a uniform on and thinking ‘people are looking to me to make decisions and to look after them’ that makes you feel capable.”
‘An awful time’
She described the mistaken killing of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes – which happened during a counter-terrorism operation that she commanded – as “an awful time”.
Mr de Menezes, 27, was shot in the head at London’s Stockwell Tube in 2005 by police who mistook him for a terror suspect.
“I think about it quite often,” said Ms Dick, who was ultimately absolved of any blame.
“I wish, wish, wish it hadn’t happened, of course, but if anything it has made me a better leader, a better police officer and it has made me more resilient.”
Ms Dick picked tracks including In Private by Dusty Springfield and the hymn Lord Of All Hopefulness among the tunes to take to the desert island with her, and her book choice was the complete works of Thomas Hardy.
Her choice of luxury item was soap.
“Scent is very important to me, but it is the case that my colleagues think it is hilarious that I simply cannot smell, ever, the smell of cannabis,” she joked.
Desert Island Discs airs at 11:15 GMT on BBC Radio 4 and on the BBC Sounds app.
Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-47185761