A reflective force: Officers are leading the way towards a diverse West Midlands Police
From new recruits to a Chief Superintendent - officers are helping to lead the way in creating a modern, multicultural West Midlands Police force.
The force already has the second highest number of black and minority ethnic (BME) staff in the country but is committed to attracting, developing and retaining staff from diverse backgrounds to better represent the areas it serves.
To coincide with Black History Month - and 20th anniversary of the West Midlands Black and Asian Police Association (BAPA) - some of the latest recruits and the highest-ranking BME officer have revealed their experiences to encourage more people from different cultures to consider a police career.
Chief Superintendent Matt Ward has risen from a PC, to leading on murder investigations with CID and tackling serious and organised crime through the intelligence service.
Matt - who is now Police Commander for Sandwell - said: “Policing is a great career. At times it is tough, demanding and frustrating; but it can equally be rewarding, empowering and fulfilling.
“For those who believe the world can be unfair and unjust, policing is a unique chance to make a difference.
“Policing in 2016 is not the same as it was decades ago; as a new recruit I remember being on foot patrol in Wolverhampton with another black officer. Cars slowed down to stare because it was so unusual to see two BME officers together.
“Today, whilst BME officers on patrol together is not yet a common sight, I’m glad to say it’s certainly no longer an exceptional one.”
The force has a Positive Action programme which actively encourages people across all communities to apply for roles in the organisation.
Matt added: “The lack of BME officers in senior leadership positions or highly sought after roles suggests that, in the past, our selection processes have not always been fair. The force is now working hard to redress this imbalance and eliminate any bias that has hindered the progression of BME colleagues.
“After 21 years I remain incredibly proud to be a BME officer in West Midlands Police and want to see more black and Asian members of the community join us and become equally proud.”
Inspiration can also be taken from PC Kiran Patel who hit the streets as a beat bobby in Birmingham in April last year and is the force’s current Student Officer of the Year.
The 26-year-old - who was previously a special constable - said: “There is great satisfaction in being able to help the public.
“I didn’t find it a challenge coming from a BME background as you are treated no differently; as an organisation we are one team.
“It may seem strange to some who consider the traditional career of a British Asian male to be a doctor or a pharmacist - but this is something I wanted for a long time and it’s a decision I’ve never regretted.
“It is important for BME staff to join - not only for a better representation but to create a sense of pride within diverse communities.”
Maya Ellis-Mayes also graduated from the force’s training course at Tally Ho earlier this year and is now a response officer in Birmingham.
The 27-year-old studied criminology at university and has been able to fulfil her ambitions of being a PC.
She said: “I grew up on an estate in Birmingham where we were used to seeing the police; and they took a real interest in supporting young people, coming to the youth centre to give advice and organising activities.
“It really inspired me to stay on the right side of the law and from then I always wanted to become an officer.
“I had no concerns about wanting to sign-up with West Midlands Police and being from a BME heritage.
“Positive Action was one of the reasons I was so comfortable joining; it was made it clear it didn’t matter what your background was.
“Everyone has been very welcoming and I really enjoy what I do. There are opportunities to improve and being an officer is something I would recommend to others.”
West Midlands Police is set to reopen recruitment for PCs this autumn. Anyone considering a career as a police officer can see further information, and register their interest with the force by visiting jobs.west-midlands.police.uk