I am currently an Inspector in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, attached to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit in HR. I am also the Interim President of the National Black Police Association which represents all black/ethnic minority police associations in the UK.
I was born and raised in County Armagh, my father was born in Malaysia and my mother is from Northern Ireland. I am mixed race and grew up in an almost exclusively white environment. I was also the eldest in my family so had no one to look out for me which at times made me feel a little isolated and most certainly a lot different.
During my school years I had people waiting to assault me when the bell went and I was subject to a number of racist comments and songs whilst I was growing up. It was strange at times as this abuse was easier to take than some of the lower level comments that friends and family would make like: “where are you from?”, closely followed by “where are you really from?” This made me feel that I was not accepted as a citizen of the country I was born in just because the pigment in my skin was darker than most people.
Thankfully I have always managed to break down some of these stereotypes when people get to know me. I often find that people expect me to be very different because of how I look and when they get chatting to me, they begin to see the similarities and forget about the differences. I found this to be helped further from being involved in sport; it often freshened people’s minds when you had 14 large rugby team mates standing up for you.
I joined the police in 1999 and love being a police officer. I was first posted to Omagh and then joined the Armed Response Unit which I absolutely loved. I left Armed Response in 2017 and have been rotating through fast track promotion processes. The job can at times be stressful and not always fair but it is such a rewarding experience being able to help others and stop people causing harm in our communities.
Within the Service I have on occasion faced direct racist abuse from some colleagues (which I robustly challenged) and also received great support from other colleagues. I have also on occasion found that I have been subject to more indirect racism when I felt that I was passed over for temporary promotion because of my ethnicity. Conscious and unconscious bias with respect to all minority groupings has to be challenged by all organisations. Within the Police Service of Northern Ireland and within police forces across Great Britain I am working with senior police leaders to change and put in place policies and procedures to bring about meaningful change and to eliminate these biases so that we can have a truly diverse and inclusive workforce.
I am now providing help to others through my National Black Police Association role and hope that eventually we will have a culture within policing that truly values the unique skills and experience we all bring. We must be allowed to be ourselves in work and policing must acknowledge the lived experiences of officers and staff that can give an insight into how sections of the community feel.
Inclusion means valuing our people and if we utilise the cultural competence our workforce contains, we can truly listen, care and act in the best interests of all officers, staff and the wider community.