Police officers and staff celebrated Black History Month by looking at topical issues such as the impact of COVID-19 on black communities.
A virtual conference was attended by 135 police officers, staff, volunteers and members of our local communities across Essex and Kent, alongside regional and national stakeholders, some of whom talked about their personal experiences growing up and of policing.
Essex Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington and Kent Chief Constable Alan Pughsley both stated their commitment and pledge to further enhancing diversity, equality and inclusion across both forces and spoke of their pride in the work which has already taken place.
We are currently running a We Value Difference recruitment campaign to encourage applications from people who don’t traditionally see policing as a career option.
Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington says: “Black History Month is an opportunity for us all to celebrate the cultures, histories and achievements of Britain’s African and Caribbean communities and to understand the challenges and opportunities facing black communities.
He goes onto say “We police with the consent of all the community, so inequalities and disproportionality that impact more on any part of those communities, including those unfortunately found in some police tactics, can undermine this trust and confidence. This is particularly true in relation to black communities.
“I am committed to work towards resolving these in the months and years ahead, working in partnership with local communities and my officers, staff and volunteers who do the policing.
“I celebrate Black History Month with you and encourage young black people to please join us and become heroes in policing, like the thousands of women, and men, just like you, already working here.”
Discussion at the virtual event – hosted by our Minority and Ethnic Support Association and Kent Minority Ethnic Police Association – focused on the impact of COVID-19 on black communities and their resilience to it and how we worked with all our communities during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations during the summer to further enhance community cohesion.
However, officers and staff also talked about their personal journeys. Epping Forest and Brentwood district commander Chief Inspector Antony Alcock said he’d never experienced racism in policing and was privileged to have served in many different and exciting roles.
He told how he’d worked hard to ensure that he’s perceived as a credible and competent leader and he also shared the challenges of his family life as a young boy and revealed how his mother helped shape him into becoming the man he is today.
Detective Superintendent Coretta Hine, deputy head of Public Protection and Partnership for Kent Police, asked the audience to reflect on what they felt and saw when they looked at her and then asked what they had done to support black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. She shared her experiences and tips to develop personal and professional resilience.
Vernal Scott, our Diversity and Inclusion manager, spoke about his journey as a black man and the importance of drawing a line under the past, instead looking towards to a more inclusive future.
Chief Inspectors Sharn Taylor and Diane Middlemiss explained what each force’s Positive Action Team was doing to attract and recruit a more diverse pool of applicants, with buddy schemes, mentoring, support networks and open evenings.
Detective Inspector Andy George, President of the National Black Police Association, closed the event by talking about the progress that is being made locally in Essex and Kent, as well as regionally and nationally, against the backdrop of 2020 – COVID-19, the killing of George Floyd in the US in May and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
If this story has inspired you, why not take a look at the careers Essex Police can offer you?