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 You are in: Features
The Policeman

By Peter Gould
BBC News Online home affairs

Dave Morris: A policeman for over 20 years

Chief Superintendent Dave Morris never had any doubts about becoming a policeman.

As a child, it was the only job he wanted. His father served with the RAF Police. And as a teenager, Dave became a constable with the Metropolitan Police.

Today, 24 years later, he has a key job running the department responsible for the corporate development of the South Wales force.

His story may not seem that remarkable. But Dave is one of the very few senior police officers in Britain to come from an ethnic minority.

Click here to watch an interview with Dave Morris

Dave’s parents met when his father, Cardiff born and bred, was serving with the colonial police in Malaya.

Embarking on his own police career, Dave has had to deal with racism, both from members of the public and fellow officers.

On the beat, he stood out because almost all the other police officers were white. It made him a target for racists.

You do get abused verbally by your colleagues in terms of the banter

Dave Morris
"You get abused, assaulted and pushed not only because are you a police officer, but because you are black."

He found himself called on to help maintain public order during the Brixton riots, and later in South Wales, he found himself facing striking miners.

"You come to rely on your white colleagues to support you."

Morris was on duty during the Brixton riots
Yet after joining the force, Dave had to put up with many jibes from police colleagues that today would be regarded as racist.

"You do get abused verbally by your colleagues in terms of the banter. They pick on your colour or your background, your cultural ethnicity. You put up with it."

Dave believes all police officers from ethnic minorities have experienced this kind of racism at some stage in their careers, usually when they are constables.

Looking back on it now he says: "You almost swallow your pride, because you know if you challenge it you become an oddball, you get pushed out, and the whole issue about policing is teamwork."

So Dave says he understands the pressures facing young black and Asian officers as they set out on their police careers.

"You are posted to a police station where you may be the only ethnic minority police officer," he says.
Background & analysis

Question: Is British justice colour blind?

"You may be the only ethnic minority person in the village or the town, so of course it is difficult, and as a police officer you do get abused.

"You know, you are a pig, or whatever the terminology is, and if you are a black police officer you are a black pig, so you get doubly abused."

Dave Morris says he regards it as one of his duties to support younger officers coming through the ranks. He knows the kind of problems they can face, both inside and outside the force.

"It is difficult if you are a member of a community, an Asian community or Muslim community, and join the police service.

"You’ve got family and friends who say ‘Why are you joining the police, why are you joining them?’

"You are part of the establishment, and so you are under pressure. Do you stay in the police service? Or do you leave?"

You need to change the perception of an institutionally racist organisation

Dave Morris

Dave says it is particularly during their first couple of years that ethnic minority officers encounter problems, either with the police culture, or from pressure in their own community.

In his early years with the Met, his ambitions were all to do with being an operational police officer.

But after he moved to South Wales in 1984, he began to think about the career ladder.

These days, accelerated promotion schemes can put a bright young officer on the fast track to a senior job.

As a police officer from an earlier generation, Dave has had to do it the hard way. He has worked his way up through the ranks, always aware of the need to demonstrate beyond any doubt that he is the right man for the job.

"Once you are into the rank or the post, you have to show that you are as good if not better than any of your colleagues, because you are identifiable, purely by your ethnicity or your culture."

BBC News Online survey

Question: Do you think the police do a good job?

Morris says things have definitely improved since he joined the police, 24 years ago. As chair of the local Black Police Association he is now in a position to encourage younger officers.

He believes that as more men and women from ethnic minorities move into senior jobs, it will help to raise their profile within the police.

He believes this is crucial, given the way the Metropolitan force was branded as "institutionally racist" over the handling of the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation.

"I think the Lawrence inquiry was a watershed," says Dave.

"I believe the police service needs the best people in order to police all of its communities. The only way you are going to get the best people is to show that you are fair, not discriminatory, and that you represent that community."

And Dave Morris argues that the only way to reform the police service is for more people from the ethnic minorities to work within it, helping to bring about change:

"You need to change the perception of an institutionally racist organisation, and the way to do that is to attract more people from the minority communities, and to get them promoted.

"When the community start to see minority police officers spreading throughout the organisation at all levels, that is when you start to break down that perception.

"And that is when you can start to say the police service does reflect its community."

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