More than 150 National Black Police Association delegates will spend the next two days in Sheffield for their annual conference.
Representing the Equality and Human Rights Commission I was invited to give a short address in this morning’s session.
Before that I found time to talk to those BME men and women who still have extraordinary challenges that their white colleagues don’t face. For example, during my talk I asked how many of them had been stopped and searched by fellow officers? Shockingly about one third responded that they had. One young sergeant told me that whilst in London with his Black friends he withdrew cash from a High St cash dispenser, then after going to a shop next door two officers were waiting at the entrance.One officer grabbed his arm to:
“Come this way! I noticed when you took money from the till you had a police badge, what are you doing with one of those?’
‘You will know sir that if you’re a police officer then you are afforded one’, replied the sergeant.
Not satisfied with that they asked for more ID. At which point they where satisfied and let him go about his law abiding business. One of his two Black friends turned to him and said:
‘That’s why I wouldn’t join the police force’.
The challenge is not only internal, but also external. Given the history BME communities face and still are by some police forces, the BME police officer also has to deal with the prejudice that comes from our own communities. Babylon may no longer be the term used, but the meaning still resonates.
Despite all the obstacles, BME individuals still come forward and apply to become officers, and we must pay tribute to them, and demand that their bosses treat them with decency and respect. They must also recognise that these officers are often forced to deal with much more than white officers. Whilst none are seeking special treatment, they would like their fellow officers to be alive to their extraordinary challenges.
Above all what struck me in my short visit to the conference was their solidarity and desire to ensure their police force was a good place to work for themselves and their colleagues. Their Charles Crichlow’s slogan for the two day conference was: ‘Transformation through Education’. Crichlow said during his opening remarks that with impending cuts we would demand that BME officers are treated equitably, and of BME officers themselves, he urged them to excel.
Our message to all BME police officers throughout the UK, is we salute you, brothers and sisters, we salute you.