'We are just everyday people just doing a job': The Northamptonshire Police group helping people see behind the uniform
Northamptonshire's Black Police Association's chairman and secretary sitÂ side-by-side in a room at the county's policeÂ headquarters in Wooton Hall.
Detective Superintendent Dennis Murray has just given a talk about the group's new website - which launched earlier in October - before inviting guests to watch a video made for Black History Month.
Next to him sits PC Candy Liverpool and both are eager to talk about what the BPA do in the county, as it works to promote good race relations and equality of opportunity.
“Locally the BPA is a support network for what’s described as black and minority ethnic group, but actually our membership is really wide-ranging so while the title might be a little misleading it’s about coming and discussing issues around BME both internally in the police force and externally," said the chairman Det Supt Dennis Murray.
He explains that the Northamptonshire BPA is multi-faceted in that it helps BME staff within the force, thinks about how to help the police attract BME people to the force and when they join, what can be done to support them.
Perhaps the most important is the engagement aspect where the BPA looks at how it interacts with the community and makes sure the people within feel like they are represented in the police.
It can also challenge the force on issues around BME staff mainly because it has close ties to chief officers at Northamptonshire Police.
“The BPA, from a Northants point of view, has a really good relationship with our chief constable and our chief officer too," said 47-year-old Det Supt Murray.
“From my point of view I think it's clear there have been some issues in policing nationally, while we don’t necessarily see some of those issues in Northants around discrimination in the workplace and things like that, it’s healthy to have someone there to health check this stuff, and the BPA is the local health check for that.
He added: "I’ve got the confidence I can knock on his [Chief Constable Simon Edens] door and I know he will listen to me. And that’s not about rank, Candy could knock on his door and say exactly the same thing.”
PC Candy Liverpool is Northants BPA's secretary and has been in the force for 13 years, spending the first three as a Police Community Support Officer.
“I’m a community officer so I work on the neighbourhood team. I’m very front-facing and I deal with a lot different communities," said PC Liverpool.
“In terms of why we have the BPA, looking back in history the discrimination was there before but now it is more about that engagement with the community and trying to get across, because there are barriers and certain cultures will have certain misconceptions or perceptions of what it is to be a police officer and be of a certain culture, colour, religion whatever it is.
“So it is about that engagement and about showing that actually, yes there people look like those people out there, it's a good place to work, and we haven't got those issues.”
The pair were speaking at the launch of the BPA's new website, which they hope will help open lines of communications directly with the communities they serve.
“A lot of people won’t know that we exist," said PC Liverpool.
“Talking from my personal experience from the role I do as a neighbourhood officer, those contacts are vital.
"At the moment I'm trying to set up an independent advisory group, which is a group of people from all sorts of cultures, etc… Doing this and getting them to see what we do, to see who we are, will really help me with that because I’ll be approachable, they’ll understand what we do, they’ll build up better relationships and more confidence.”
PC Liverpool, 37, said the website helps show the public the range of things the BPA does, like attending community events, which in turn help normalise the officers in the eyes of the public.
“People can see behind the uniform, behind our titles or ranks or whatever it is, they can see behind that, and again that helps with the engagement. We are just everyday people just doing a job.”
The website can also be a forum for its members to ask questions of the police, without the fear of arousing suspicion.
“If somebody had a question around stop and search or anything - like ‘how much cannabis can I have in my pocket before I get arrested?’ - they can interact with us straight away, get an answer straight away," said Det Supt Murray.
"They’re not having to come to a police website where they might be a bit suspicious.”
Det Supt Murray insisted there was still work to be done to get people to get on the website, though he anticipated it would be easier than getting the public to walk through the doors of a police station.
He said: "Part of the challenge of that is letting people out there have the confidence to get on the website.
"And part of the research we have done before suggests that they wouldn’t naturally walk into a police station or approach a police officer and part of that is in local reasons, but also they might judge us based on the police force in their own country of origin and think we’re the same. So it’s about removing those myths.”
The new website can be found here.