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Black officers who helped changed the Met

TRAILBLAZERS: Clockwise, from main, (L-R): David Michael, Camille,
Paul Ramsey, Keith Smith, Jennifer Donaldson, George Rhoden, Bevan
Powell MBE, Dr Leroy Logan MBE, Marcia Tull

WHEN former Metropolitan Black Police Association (Met BPA) Chair and police superintendent Leroy Logan MBE retired in 2013 after 30 years’ service, media coverage focused on the important role played by the Met BPA, which Logan played a key part in founding.

When Logan joined the Met in the early 1980s, it was a time when few black people would have considered joining the police service. Allegations of racism in the Met Police began to surface during the 1970s.


It was therefore no surprise that the recruitment of black police officers in the 1980s was generally slow despite several targeted recruitment campaigns. Among the African Caribbean community there was a strong belief that those who joined would be subjected to racism both within the force as well as opposition and hostility from friends, relatives and members of the community.

It was this state of affairs that led to the creation of the Met BPA in September 1994. The central aim of the serving black officers who created it was to reform British Policing from ‘the inside out’ with regard to race relations.

Since its creation, the Met BPA has been at the forefront of creating a dialogue within the service about diversity, inclusion and equality issues. Last November, a special event, attended by former home secretary Jack Straw, took place at the Metropolitan Police Training School in Hendon, to celebrate its 23rd anniversary.

It was a screening of a documentary called A Movement In Time, which charts the story of the inception of the organisation followed by a question and answer session with Logan and other leading Met BPA legacy members such as George Rhoden, Bevan Powell MBE and David Michael.

REPRESENTATION: More black officers are on the streets of London thanks to the efforts of the Met BPA

Speaking about the event and the film, June Alison Durant, head of the Met BPA’s membership portfolio and organiser of the event said: “I wanted to show our members the history of the organisation.


“It has had a tremendous influence in recent times, including the investigations into the murders of Damilola Taylor, Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent Macpherson Report which ultimately changed the processes within the Criminal
Justice system. Our achievements need to be cemented in modern police history.”

George Rhoden, one of the first black police officers to carry firearms in the UK, agrees. He believes that a documentary like A Movement In Time has come at a critical time.

“It seems that some are attempting to change the narrative of the BPA” he said.

“But the organisation has an impressive record of accomplishment. A Movement In Time is designed to claim our place in the history of the Met.”

As both Rhoden and Durant highlighted, the Met BPA has been acknowledged for its contribution to helping the UK’s largest police force to become more diverse and for challenging discrimination within it. For example, when the Met BPA was created in 1994, there were fewer than 100 black and minority ethnic serving officers in the Met. It has played a key role in helping that number rise to approximately 4,200. However Logan stresses that the recruitment of more black officers is only one part of the equality and diversity debate in policing.

He said: “The Met BPA’s role is not just about increasing the number of black recruits. The Met BPA was and should be like a firefighter service for its members, when facing the heat of discrimination.

“It is an autonomous association which addresses the inequalities experienced by black members of the community
both internally, within the police service, and externally.

“We have always believed that if the Met sets a good example in serving the needs of its black personnel internally, it would be better equipped to serve the needs of a diverse community.”

Logan continued: “The organisation has helped the Met bridge the gap with the community; something it finds difficult because of cultural sensitivities. We have been behind the modernisation of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) for almost 25 years; building trust and confidence with the black community. This has been a real issue and our role has been vital.”

An example of this was the role it played in the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and the investigation into the murder of schoolboy Damilola Taylor in 2000. Speaking about the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, former home secretary Jack Straw, who set it up, played a vital role in supporting the fledging Met BPA and among other things provided the office space for the organisation.


The politician recalled: “As the home secretary I had strong views on equal opportunities and asked myself the question, ‘How can I ensure that the life chances of all peoples are equal?’ When Tony Blair came into power after Labour was in opposition for 18 years, he had a similar agenda to myself. So we decided to back the Met BPA.”

He continued: “One of the biggest problems that I faced as the home secretary was setting up the Lawrence Inquiry and its terms of reference. The founding members of the Met BPA helped to charter the progress of the inquiry.”

In the Damilola Taylor case the organisation played a key role in sourcing officers to work with the local black community in Peckham, south east London, which helped secure the eventual conviction of Danny and Ricky Preddie.

TRAGIC: Damilola Taylor

While welcoming the celebration of the organisation’s history Mike Samuel, Met BPA treasurer, who helped organise the November event believes there are a number of current issues that the Met BPA needs to focus its attention on.

“There has been a steep rise in knife crime that is primarily affecting black and minority communities across the country,” he said.

“The standard tactic of increased stop and search is again being rolled out at the same time as police forces are ignoring the unique trust and knowledge of black and minority officers.

“We have reminded successive chief officers that policing must be done with communities not to them.

“We will continue to listen and champion the concerns of the community and minority police officers.”

Jenny Donaldson, a former Met Police inspector and current Met BPA member, agrees with Samuel but questions the police service’s current interaction with the black community and black officers.

She said: “The police need to visit schools and speak with youngsters at a junior level.

“I remember when I was child and a police officer visited the school I attended. It helped instil admiration for police officers. The service needs to continue in its efforts and not just when there is a crisis.”

According to Durant, the current climate of economic austerity may have a negative impact on how that baton is passed on. She said: “With the Metropolitan Police being asked to make £400 million in savings by 2020, we all may be asked to do more with less.”

However, Dr Victor Olisa MBE, former Chief Superintendent and head of diversity and inclusion at the Met, doesn’t believe diversity is being endangered as a result of the intended cuts.

He said: “The new Commissioner and senior management at the Met really value staff associations, including the Met BPA. We realise they have played an integral part in operational decision making in many areas and it is hoped this will continue. But we want association staff to focus on work they are trained to do; to improve the effectiveness of these organisations.”

David Michael, who has served as chair of the Met BPA for two terms believes more interaction needs to exist between its executive committee and founding members.

Michael said: “The executive committee should make more use of us (founding members) when formulating policy and facing challenges of funding and human resources.

He added: “The Met BPA also needs to review how its officers are used within the framework of its admin responsibilities, given the imminent cuts in funding. It needs a more realistic approach.”


But Bevan Powell MBE, chair of the Met BPA, between 2008 and 2013, believes the organisation’s legacy extends beyond the police service. Powell, who is a councillor in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said: “Some of the founding members of the Met BPA are councillors and delving into politics and continue to address the issues that afflict the black community.

“The legacy of the Met BPA continues.”

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