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Force member of staff helps change perceptions of policing

June 18, 2020
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A police member of staff whose job it is to engage disaffected youngsters has spoken of why he is using his position to challenge the prejudice of being black and in the force.

Growing up black in Nottingham comes with a number of challenges, as Romel Davis talks frankly about here.

Before joining the force he, like many other young black men, had a stereotypical view of the police – which was they were likely to treat you differently, just because of the colour of your skin.

This was reinforced in his mind when he was stopped and searched as a youngster, but despite this Romel decided he wanted to turn his own experience on its head and challenge prejudices by joining the force.

Now he uses his platform to help encourage black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) youngsters to have a different view of the police, and is even playing a part in helping to attract people into the force who would otherwise never have considered it.

Romel works as a youth outreach worker for Nottinghamshire Police’s Citizen’s in Policing Department (CiPD). He has also been instrumental in setting up a cadet base which has the backing of the mother of Lyrico Steede – a black teenager murdered in Nottingham two years ago.

For Romel growing up in Nottingham wasn’t easy. He faced direct and indirect racism and was forced to develop a thick skin.

As he got older, he was keen to move away from the many stereotypes associated with being a young black man and began to look at different career paths and looked to joining the police, although he was initially discouraged by his family from joining.

Romel, 33, said: “I was born in Germany as my dad was in the army and he used to tell me about the racism he suffered, as he was from Jamaica.

“Growing up in Nottingham it was not very diverse. I remember standing at a bus stop and watching a van drive past and the occupants making monkey noises as it drove past.

“Being young I retaliated quite angrily and in hindsight I was living up to the stereotype but I knew I had to change. I saw an advert to join the police and I told my family who responded by calling me a sell-out. It put me off applying because I know what people close to me have experienced. I’ve even been stopped and searched by the police myself.

“As time went on I had various different jobs but I knew I wasn’t happy doing what I was doing. I had a child and my perspective on life changed. I saw another job working in the control room for Nottinghamshire Police in 2013 so I swallowed my pride, applied and got the job. And now six years on I have a new job with the police as a youth engagement worker, where I use my own experiences to help others.

“The force has been extremely supportive of the changes I have wanted to make and I am a strong believer that education is the key when it comes to cultural awareness, race, gender, religion and sexuality.

“Now I am actively working within the community to try to encourage more BAME young people to trust the police and use my experience to help young people follow the right path through our cadet base in Bulwell, which was opened following the murder of teenager Lyrico Steede, and poignantly named after him.”

The 17-year-old was fatally stabbed in 2018 following a long-running dispute. Five youths were convicted of his death.

Romel added: “We also work with the cadets’ families with the idea this will have a knock on effect in the future because these youths will grow to learn to trust the police, and hopefully look to join the force whether it’s as an officer or behind the scenes as a member of police staff. It will take time but Nottinghamshire Police are proud to serve and proud to have a diverse force.”

Chief Constable Craig Guildford said: “The work that Romel does is a huge asset to us as a force and it is credit to him that he has chosen to come and work for us, despite some of the personal pressures he felt by doing so.

“We are committed to attracting and retaining the best people from a range of backgrounds to ensure that our workforce is truly representative of our local communities.  The current increase in officer numbers has given us a great opportunity to increase the diversity of our workforce, and it is thanks to people like Romel and the work he is doing that we are managing to do exactly this. We hope to attract people from all corners of the community, not just as front line officers but also as members of staff.

“We have come a long way in recent years to make sure we are much more representative of the people we serve, but we can always do more and as Chief Constable I am committed to making this happen. Only by doing this can forces truly hope to win the trust and confidence of all communities.”

Black, Asian and minority ethnic applicants are steadily increasing in the police force across Nottinghamshire, with 5.8 per cent of the police’s workforce currently from these backgrounds. The force is particularly keen to attract local people from diverse backgrounds as part of its Uplift programme.

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