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Acting Police Sergeant Richard Gayle at his passing out parade
Acting Police Sergeant Richard Gayle at his passing out parade

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Black History Month: "I’m proud to be following in the footsteps of my Black police heroes"

In the first of a series of blogs to celebrate Black History Month, acting Police Sergeant Richard Gayle tells us how Black police officers from St Lucia to London inspired him to protect the vulnerable.

“My great uncle Etienne was having lunch with friends in his home island of St Lucia when he was shot repeatedly – and fatally – in the back by an unknown assailant because of his ambitions to become a chief superintendent and his vision of fighting police corruption from the inside.

“He was a superintendent and had devoted more than 30 years of his life to protecting others as a police officer when he was murdered, age 49.

“I wasn’t even a twinkle in my parents’ eyes at the time but great uncle Etienne later became an inspiration for me when I was starting out in the police, finding the courage to run toward danger where others would flee it.

“My number one icon is my dad, who joined the Met when I was five years old.

“I remember, on a balmy May day in 1996, holding my mum’s hand as I watched dad – dressed crisply in a black tunic, trousers, white gloves and the iconic “custodian” police helmet – proudly march alongside other new constables at his passing out parade.

“Dad’s whole career was before him - although it was sadly cut short five years later when he was injured while on duty.

“Dad was one of very few Black officers on parade that day and to me he outshone everyone – he was my hero. I knew then that I wanted to be a police officer too.

“So I became a Volunteer Police Cadet when I turned 13, and when I was old enough I applied to be a Met police constable.

“Nineteen years after watching my dad “pass out”, I was the one wearing the tunic, gloves and helmet, while mum and dad proudly cheered me on as I marched across Hendon training ground – with notably more Black colleagues than in dad’s day.

“From my time as a neighbourhoods police officer in Lewisham to my current role in the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, I’ve never looked back and I feel proud to know that every day I am helping keep people safe.

“Since joining “the Job” I’ve had the honour of meeting pioneering Black police officers including Sislin Faye Allen, the first Black female police officer in the UK and the Met, and Gamal ‘G’ Turawa, the first openly gay Black Met officer, who was doubly inspiring to me as I’m also gay.

“Having family members in the police, I never saw my heritage as a barrier to pursuing my career, but lots of people who’d be amazing cops don’t have the same fortune or, worse still, have had negative experiences with police.

“You can’t be what you can’t see, so I hope that by proudly telling my story, I will encourage other Black men and women to join the police and make themselves, their families and their communities proud – and safe.”

Find out how to become a Met Police officer like Acting Police Sergeant Gayle at www.met.police.uk/careers.

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