How important was it for you to write this book and have your story heard?
It was crucial. It has been incredibly therapeutic and healing to write it. I almost felt compelled to do it. It’s not about getting back at the police, it is about saying to other people who might be in a similar position to me: “I hear you, you are not alone.” It’s also a message to my former colleagues, many of whom are now in senior positions, saying: “These are the consequences of your words and actions, please listen and think.” But it’s not about portraying myself as a victim. I don’t want to call myself a victim because that would mean that it has all been for nothing and they have won.
Do you regret having given so many years of your life to the police?
The biggest regret I have, which also blurs into shame, is that I allowed it to happen and that I said nothing for such a long time. I also feel a lot of shame that I joined the force in the first place and didn’t listen to the friends who warned me not to. Perhaps if my mum had tried to stop me I would have listened to her but she had respect for the police and she encouraged me. Now when I think about those wasted years, which I will never get back – I can’t describe how that feels. I lost everything – my marriage, my home, my income, my mental health. All of it.
Looking back now, what would you have done differently?
Maybe the best thing I could have done would have been to get out of the force much earlier. But who wants to quit on their dream? Who wants to admit defeat? Also, I wouldn’t have fought them in court. I recognise now that courts are not the place to battle race discrimination. For a person of colour like me to go into a courtroom, a white institution, and to have to convince the person on the bench of my reality, my lived experience – how are they going to get that when they don’t walk in my shoes? It was hard to swallow how I was treated in court.
Will the police ever be able to eliminate the racism, homophobia and sexism you experienced in the force?
I think is too ingrained and I doubt it will change in my lifetime. It’s a cancer in the police and nobody knows how to cut it out. The leadership have a lot to answer for. They talk the talk but there is no real punishment for misbehaviour. Two officers accused in my case, Inspectors Quantrell and D’Orsi, were promoted afterwards. That was their reward. What message does that send out?
At the end of the book, you write about starting to rebuild your life. How have you moved forward?
I was homeless for two and a half years after leaving the police. I had to sleep in a hostel bedroom with 11 other people. It nearly destroyed me. I think one of the only reasons I survived it was that after living in police accommodation, I’d already been institutionalised. I moved into social housing a couple of years ago and after that I got heavily into writing this book and a second book I am working on. I have also been having therapy, doing group counselling, trying to lose weight and get in shape, trying to reconnect with friends and family. So I’ve been slowly trying to put back in place all the positive things this experience had taken away from me. I’m nowhere near finished the process yet.
What is your second book about?
It’s about homelessness and what you do after you have lost everything, including a place to live. Eight million of us are one pay cheque away from losing our homes and over 300,000 are homeless. I want to try and broaden the conversation about housing and homelessness, loneliness and loss.
What advice would you give to a young black man or woman, gay or straight, thinking of joining the police force today?
This is a hard question to answer. If I were to start saying to young black and brown boys, gay young men or lesbians, “Don’t join the police”, then nothing is ever going to change. I believe the force desperately needs more black and brown recruits, more gay recruits. But to paraphrase Neville Lawrence, I would advise them to go in with their eyes wide open. They need to be very mindful about the attitudes and prejudices they are likely to face.
Source: The Guardian