Your Life is Worth Less as a Black Person in the Police

Kevin Maxwell by Lee BaxterIn 2001, I stepped proudly through the doors of Greater Manchester Police and one of the first words I was called from a colleague was a “coconut” – you know, black on the outside/white on the inside. This was just before the BBC documentary The Secret Policeman aired highlighting racism in the service, I was at the same Police Training Centre.

It was also the first time I met DC Paul Bailey of GMP, who is currently involved in Employment Tribunal proceedings against the Force.

After 10 years in Manchester, I left the City Centre CID and transferred to London – thinking, the Met Police had learned lessons and would be more tolerant of minorities like myself. Boy, was I wrong.

Scotland Yard makes GMP look like a kindergarden, when it comes to race. It’s out of control. For the past five years, I have been fighting the Police Commissioner with discrimination and corruption in the courts and have been through three trials. And, it’s still not over.

For far too long in my policing career, I acquiesced thinking they would accept me. I was wrong, the biggest mistake I made. You don’t get any respect from your colleagues for not standing up for yourself, so what have you got to lose?

I’m mixed-race, but perversely had to fight for the right to be considered black which is how I identify because the Met said I wasn’t black enough to be discriminated against. I kid you not.

20 years after Stephen Lawrence’s death, what’s changed? The answer, not much.

In 1984, the Government introduced the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) largely as a result of the 1981 Brixton riots. It was designed to regulate police powers and protect public rights, but its success is questionable.

30 years on from this, deaths of minorities in custody are at the highest they’ve ever been and stop and search powers have discriminately targeted young black and Asian men alienating them against the establishment which will take years to undo if indeed it can be.

Trust and confidence in the police is at an all-time low.

Is this fair, of course it is.

When you’re constantly discriminated against because of your colour, you see those doing it as racist – nothing more, nothing less. And especially when wearing a uniform whilst doing it, which is meant to protect you and your rights.

As a black man in modern Britain, I have no confidence in the police. Which is sad, considering my past.

Given my experiences, I would think twice about asking the police for help if ever I needed it. At the back of my mind, I would be asking myself would they use my colour against me as a black person?

We hear far too often of the horror stories experienced by the public after coming into contact with the police, but spare a thought for those minorities serving. Your life is worth less as a black person in the police too.

Published by The Nubian Times on 3 October 2014.

© Kevin Maxwell Film, Media & Performance 2014