“I’m proud to be Black, female and a police officer'
Police Constable Lou Roberts tells us how her gran made her the strong, hard-working woman she is today, in our third blog marking Black History Month.
“In the late ’50s my gran took her first steps on British soil, two weeks after saying goodbye to her family and setting sail from Trinidad. Grandma Elaine was one of the Windrush generation that boldly moved across the world in pursuit of a better life for their families. She would later send for my 13-year old mum to join her in London.
“Gran became a bus conductor and she loved it – something I saw for myself as a kid whenever I spent the day with her on the buses. She was always immaculately presented, proudly wearing her perfectly-pressed uniform, her hair pulled back in a no-nonsense bun and her mouth slicked with her trademark crimson Mary Quant lippy. She was always smiling.
“But being a Black woman in Britain wasn’t easy for Gran. She was sometimes subjected to foul and hateful, racist abuse. Sometimes it got physical.
“One time I watched helplessly as a man yanked her hair in front of all the other passengers. I was horrified! But Gran… she styled it out. She straightened her uniform, fixed her bun, mustered up that Mary-Quant-smile and rang the bell to tell the driver to move on. The message was clear – Gran had a job to do, and no one and nothing was going to stop her doing it!
“My horror turned to awe. That memory has spurred me to always be proud of who I am and get the job done, no matter what life throws at me.
“Even when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 44 years old – 24 years into my policing career – I didn’t let it stop me doing the job I loved. I couldn’t work on the front line anymore because I was hobbling around on crutches. Fine – I switched to an ‘office job’ training hundreds of other officers instead, and picked up a Commissioner’s Excellence Award for ‘commitment to professionalism whilst overcoming adversity’ while I was at it!
“Gran’s work ethic and has run through my veins for as long as I can remember, and I’ve found inspiration from women I’ve met through work too.
“Like the lady I visited after she reported being abused by her partner. I remember it so vividly – a petite woman opened the door. Beneath her soft velour tracksuit she bore the most horrific injuries I’d ever seen: head-to-toe bruises – such that I couldn’t even tell the colour of her skin – cigarette burns and the prints of her abuser’s hands.
“Shock must have been written across my face because she actually asked me if I was OK. Later she said my expression helped her decide to assist us in prosecuting her attacker. He was convicted and jailed, as a result.
“We are surrounded by different people and challenges in life. They all give us a lesson on how we should be and what sort of person you should represent. The courage and needs of countless people like that woman have reinforced my passion for policing and kept me striving to be the best officer I can be.
“After I joined the Met in 1992, I fronted a recruitment campaign because I wanted to represent and inspire Black women. Twenty-nine years on my desire to do this is a million times stronger, and in 2019 I was proud to be part of a campaign that celebrated the 100-year anniversary of women in the Met Police.
“I’m proud to be Black, female and a police officer and I urge any women thinking about a career as a copper to paint on their metaphorical Mary Quant lipstick and stand alongside me; to make a difference, as I know I have.”
Find out how you can follow in Police Constable Roberts’ footsteps at www.met.police/careers