A week or so ago, I was asked on Twitter why wasn’t my police union funding my employment case against the Metropolitan Police and today was asked on Facebook what prompted me to start writing about my experiences.
So, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone…
UK law doesn’t allow Police Officers to strike, so there is no such thing as a union. However, in place of this is a Federation – a bit like a union, bit not one. It represents the majority of Police Officers in Britain.
When I first became an officer back in 2001, I joined the Federation paying different monthly subscription amounts. In many ways, this is like insurance for Police Officers if something unfortunately should go wrong during your service like sickness, disciplinary etc.
Like purchasing home insurance, if your house burns down you hope the insurance company will help you.
I’d never called-on the services of the Police Federation in all my years until late 2009, that’s some 7-years paying every month without fail and not bothering it.
When I was diagnosed with depression in 2009 after experiencing racism and homophobia within the Metropolitan Police, I sought the help of one of my local Federation (union) Representatives. We met at Scotland Yard, and our meeting concluded with him telling me there was no such thing as racism and/or homophobia in the MPS.
So, hardly on my side.
This was despite him having a long service record, when issues of race and sexuality had been high on the policing agenda for many reasons like the riots and a change in the law with regards to the Sexual Offences Act 2003. This said, I knew what I had seen and heard.
It was obvious I couldn’t reply on my representative, representing the Federation for support even though I had paid into the insurance scheme for all those years. All I wanted, was for someone to listen to my serious concerns.
I remember telling Alex, and him not being impressed at all. It was this which ultimately led to me contacting the local Federation HQ and asking for a new representative. Before even having the opportunity to put my experiences forward, I was again put-off pursuing my complaints of racism and homophobia by the local HQ.
No one wanted to know, and I didn’t know why?
I sought the help of a lawyer privately and explained the scenario I kept facing with the Police Federation, it just not wanting or willing to listen to me. It was after this that, I then demanded that the Federation listen to me on this basis and this alone:
I had paid my subscriptions every month like every other member throughout the country (whether white and straight), and there was no reason for it to not at least hear my complaints.
It was obliged to.
Remember, like if your house burns down.
Unless you started the fire yourself, your insurance has to cover you.
So, my persistence for the third time payed-off and I got to meet with a new Representative in person. I confided in him the racism and homophobia I had experienced and left it to him to see how he and the Federation could help me.
It was until sometime after this meeting with the second Representative that, I learned that everything I was telling him in confidence and private he was telling the MPS – undermining my pursuit of justice.
I learned this year after my Employment Tribunal hearing that, if things had gone drastically wrong for me on the basis of the Federation undermining me I would have had to take civil action against it. It beggars belief.
It took a lot of will power on my part whilst unwell, to get the Federation to listen to me and fund my employment case – because, it was the right thing to do.
It didn’t matter to me whether they liked me or not for fighting discrimination, but it did matter that I had paid my dues and rightly deserved help when I needed it most in my career.
The Federation may have fed my hand, but it equally was undermining it on so many occasions which didn’t make sense initially.
But, then it came to me…
The people who were racist and/or homophobic towards me, are the same people who also will have paid into the various Federation insurance schemes and in essence they would be paying for me to challenge themselves.
So, with this conflict of interest I was always going to be the underdog and put-off at every opportunity.
If not dissuaded, then undermining me I guess was the only option.
Even my third and last Federation Representative, wouldn’t give me the time of day when I went to him about the MPS unimaginably taking various disciplinary action against me after I complained of racism and homophobia within the force.
I decided to make the judgment call recently which wasn’t easy for me, but which I can live with knowing I have made the choice.
I decided to have no more dealings with the Police Federation whatsoever, as I cannot afford to be undermined any further in My Fight for Justice.
I am grateful for the funding it had given me, but funding of which I took out the insurance for.
My pursuit of justice stops only when, I believe I have either received it or gone as far as I can within the law. Not, when others try to stop it which is of detriment to me. We all have a right to fairness and equality under the law, and to be heard.
My decision to break my relationship with the Federation was further proved the right one when, after the Met instigated several Gross Misconduct actions against me it didn’t help me. Not even a phone call.
Before becoming ill, I’d never even been disciplined never mind anything gross.
But, I am not naïve about what happens when you step out of line and raise discrimination within the police.
I’ve had the hardest lesson in this, along with a detention.
With regards to what prompted me to writing about my experiences, a year after my diagnosis…
I’ve said it often but, I’m not one for seeking 15 minutes of fame – raising awareness whilst helping to remove discrimination stigma, yes. I was a private person, until my privacy was invaded and breached by The Sun newspaper and Met Police.
Writing with my voice, has allowed me to stay in control of what I want to say and need to say without my words being twisted in any way, shape or form.
I just couldn’t allow something such as racism, homophobia, bullying and depression to be just swept under the carpet like something trivial. So, when I realised all the odds were against me and I was having to fight on many fronts to be heard (not just against the Met and The Sun, but with the Federation) I had to have an output where I couldn’t be silenced.
Somewhere, I could write with some form of honesty and integrity without sensationalism.
Somewhere to share my experiences both good and bad, with others.
Without my writing and talking about my experiences of discrimination, I believe my struggles would have been much harder.
Throughout my police career, I kept three things at the forefront of my mind… that I couldn’t be bribed, bought or blackmailed. These kept me in good stead.
My own integrity, comes before everything else I do including any job. I owe My Mum that, having raised me as best she could without us having much.
That’s why, I really do love her for giving me the best start in life.
Anyway, I hope this blog answers the questions of funding and my writing.
If you can, please support My Fight for Justice campaign at: www.indiegogo.com/myfightforjustice.
This has been a bite the hand, if it doesn’t feed you, ‘View from the Bottom’.
Take care, Max x.
Live Healthy, Laugh Often & Love Yourself!
Published by My Mum. Copyright © Kevin Maxwell Film, Media & Performance 2012.