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“I went to college for two years, worked for an engineering company and in a sports shop. Then I joined the police and the rest is history.”
Stan Braithwaite had always dreamed of becoming a police officer and wearing the uniform. On his 19th birthday in August 1973, he did just that. This was at a time when young black men, like Stan was, didn’t have a great relationship with the police.
He secured a great deal of success during his long career, leaving behind many legacies including the development of Leicestershire Police’s Black Police Association (BPA).
Life in the police wasn’t always easy for Stan and his BAME contemporaries and there were a number of times he felt it would have been easier to quit altogether. Thanks to his supportive friends and family and a dose of his own grit and determination he carried on.
His resolve paid off and saw him promoted to Sergeant in 1985 and then Inspector in 1999 which were absolute career highlights for Stan. He was also seconded to the Home Office during the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and had the opportunity to travel to the Czech Republic to train their senior officer team.
When asked about the significance of celebrating Black History Month Stan said: “We are so proud of our heritage and want to celebrate it every day of the year, not just during one month out of twelve.
“I think I was seen as a bit of a novelty early on in my career, I was put onto the beat in a variety of different locations and I think this was to show people that Leicestershire Police had a black officer.
“On reflection I understand they did what they did for the right reasons as I became an integral part of the community. Of course, I wanted the opportunity to jump in a panda car and put that blue light on but ultimately my work within the community proved to be invaluable.”
After working the beats, Stan moved on to a number of different teams including roles as a traffic officer, on the motorways and in the Police Mobile Reserve Unit (PMRU), he returned to traffic and stayed there until his retirement when he returned to live in Barbados where he was born and raised.
Leicestershire Police’s BPA was set up in the mid-1990’s with the view to provide support and advice to BAME members of staff who may have felt at a loss knowing where to turn for understanding about issues that were specific to them.
It wasn’t case of others within the force being unwilling to help, the problem was that they hadn’t encountered the same issues so felt unable to provide the ‘right’ help. The development of the BPA was a learning curve for the force and the network alike.
It started off as a small group discussing their difficulties but also to celebrate achievements however it wasn’t always met with support from the whole force.
Questions were asked along the lines of ‘why have a BPA? What about a white police association?’ Stan is able to answer this question succinctly – “The white officers already had a white police association – it was the majority of the force. It didn’t need to be branded or formed because it already existed.
“The reason the BPA was set up, in the same way as the other networks, was to bring together a group of people who came from a minority, to work together and for our collective voices to be heard.”
Stan’s pride in his policing career sees him encourage people from any background to join the police. He admits it’s a challenging role but one that will develop you as an individual and increase your worldliness. His message to the black community is: “The police service will always be a difficult profession for black officers and support staff but perseverance and hard work will be richly rewarded.”