“We have a chance to change the way we behave”

Neil Basu, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner, says understanding prejudice is the key to making a diference

I must admit that I don’t like Black History Month (BHM); not a very politically correct start from a person recently described as the “superwoke so-called head of counter terrorism” by a particular journalist. I don’t like BHM because I don’t

like the fact that we need a special month to recognise and celebrate black achievement or understand racism. In my utopian world, we would not need to talk about the way people treat us because of the way we look or remind people of our contribution to humanity. I wrote a couple of blogs after the

killing of George Floyd in the United States. The first was to ask my white colleagues to look out for ofcers and staf of colour who might be feeling anxious, both questioning their vocation (having watched a white police ofcer kill a black man on TV), and taking questions from their own family, friends and communities about why they joined the police service. But I made a mistake in that first

blog, as my white colleagues also faced brutal and unfair chants of “racist” as they policed the frontline with remarkable restraint and professionalism. So, I wrote a second blog called ‘balance’ on the back of what had become a polarised and scarring debate. “If you’re not with us then you’re against us” became the stupid battle cry. This is not the way to create a safer

society. What’s missing is understanding and empathy for each other, whatever our life experiences. I am lucky to police London, the most diverse city in the world. Nine million people, over 40 per cent of colour, speaking every language and practising every religion under the sun. They all have one thing in common – they’re all human beings. If we can begin

to understand their experiences, we can begin to understand how to serve them


according to their need, because “without fear or favour” does not mean treating everyone in the same way. You must have a conversation with people to understand them, and you must want to listen. The reality is we are all prejudiced

but very few of us are malicious about it and want to do others harm. If we can understand why we are prejudiced, we have a chance to change the way we behave (and, hopefully, the way we think), and that will make the biggest diference in levelling the playing field or improving our interactions with people who look diferent from ourselves. Black people didn’t abolish slavery, white people did – fighting against other white people, and dying in large numbers, to uphold an idea that people were created equal and deserved an equal opportunity to make something of themselves. Yes, we can be better but don’t

forget we are already very, very good indeed. Stay safe.

Read AC Basu’s extended column at


To mark Black History Month, Andrew Gold and Olivia Watkinson interviewed two BAME ofcers about their experiences in policing

The death of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 began a difficult conversation about policing that still resonates today. But, despite being a turning point for society, one teenager in Wolverhampton viewed the shocking incident as an unexpected light-bulb moment in his young life. The same age as London teenager

Stephen, Nick Ellis’ desire to serve the public in a police uniform was the unexpected consequence of a fierce personal desire to ensure the tragedy was never repeated. Now a Detective Constable in North Wales Police, the 46-year-old son of Jamaican parents who arrived in the UK in the 1950s, recalls the Lawrence incident vividly. “In the black community where I

came from, people who spoke to the police were viewed as ‘grasses’ and it wasn’t the done thing to join up. But when Stephen Lawrence was murdered, I realised he was exactly my age at the time and, given similar circumstances, it could have happened to me,” said Nick. “It struck me that if we had more officers with my background in the police then the investigation may have been dealt with differently. There was a lot of animosity against police officers back then and I felt I wanted to do something to help change attitudes for the better.” Nick attended the University of

Wolverhampton, became a journalist covering black and hip-hop music and,

“It was always my ambition to change things for the better, even in my own small way”

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