Courage and Convictions

LEADERSHIP | INCLUSION | COMMUNICATION



The content of this article is too complex to cover in it’s entirety.


My connections to policing are personal and professional dating back to 2005, and I hope this article will draw you to the high and lows of each.


As an ex-police Intelligence Analyst, crime victim, failed crime victim, serving police officer’s wife, current Constabulary Cohesion Group member, working relationship with many forces, simply addressing the issues of Courage and Convictions will be a journey, which I welcome you to join at any stage.


It will be a ‘living article’ growing in content as my reflections grow.


Courage; Who Am I and What Have I Done?


Hannah Cotton


I was recently asked to reflect back on my experiences within the Police for a national anti-racism social media group. I reacted by saying it would be better to discuss and we should arrange a chat. The Chair pushed back. I give and take my experiences within the group, or not at all.


I then had that feeling that’s become quite familiar with those who understand reflective learning. I felt uncomfortable.


I sat with the discomfort. I analysed why I was reacting, what sensitivity had Christian uncovered? It was not that I was being asked to do something, I was happy to share. My discomfort was how I was being asked to share.


  • I wanted to talk, to be asked questions and explore the subject with the audience, and not in piecemeal messages on Facebook. This is a platform I feel unsafe on. One I’ve had police advice to remove following targeted abuse. I don’t like the umbilical cord type attachment I know I would feel to respond to every member who chose to interact with the story. I wanted to share once, verbally, and be done.


  • I wanted the audience to know that I am not talking “at” them, but with them. I wanted to be seen as a collaborator, not someone making this incredibly sensitive subject as something about me...,


...and then I realised. My wants were not important. This wasn’t about me. And so, I collected my thoughts and tried to demonstrate how I, a young white intelligence analyst, viewed stop and search, institutionalised racism and defunding the police.


This is the Facebook post



I was asked earlier, after disclosing I’m an ex-MPS intel Analyst, what my opinions are on racism?! In short; racism is everywhere, it’s far more insidious than I knew before George Floyd’s death, it threatens every aspect of our society, it terrifies me! I now work in Inclusion so struggle to view racism in isolation; racists rarely conserve their hate & persecution to one characteristic. As for my experience of racism within the MPS; I didn’t see it. But I know that doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. Two points I remember; 1) As a new starter, recognising the majority of suspect profiles I managed were not white. Applying that to my work in tasking officers with the aim of crime prevention, did I have a solution to prevent young black male victims of knife crime getting stabbed without highlighting to officers that the known suspects are young black males? No. Did I question it at the time? Yes. Did I think, why aren’t we stopping more old, asian women to save young black boys? Yes. Did I feel as though the MPS were paying me to try & help all victims of crime? yes. Did I know, understand or reflect on stop & search for those who were not involved in knife crime? No. Did I assume that the whole community would want to do *anything* to prevent another stabbing? Yes. These were my assumptions; I thought, if it were me, I’d think “I understand why the police are doing this, so it’s ok”. Only, the police never stopped me, did they? Not once, not twice, not weekly or monthly as I know some people have. It wasn’t me, my dad, brother, or friend being stopped. This is my privilege & my failing. I know now, it’s not as simple as I’d liked to have thought; “just” a stop & search is hugely intrusive, distressing & dehumanising. I am truly sorry to everyone who has suffered from it. Should the MPS have invested in other, less damaging, more effective crime prevention strategies? Yes. Do I know what they would have/could have been? Fewer intel analysts, more community support Do I wish I knew then what I know now? Yes. And, (I think, but I’m biased !) I’m a nice person. So my social links within the police to this day are with nice people. When I see uniforms beating on people; I don’t KNOW those officers. There are so many officers I know who are learning & using their position to do better (eg Project Divert) Would I have felt safe challenging racism if I had? You bet! I’ve never tolerated bullies. 2) I was invited to the Scotland Yard museum. It was unforgettable. Truly indicative of how awful people can treat others & how the police are there to stop them. Bear in mind, when I first joined the police I was alarmed at the dominance of black, Arab & Asian men featuring as suspects. It proves how desensitised I’d become when I asked the curator about a book, full of small, aged profile pictures of white men. “Are these the police officers for the case?” I asked. “No. They’re the criminals from those days.” It hadn’t even crossed my mind... I saw pages of white criminals and assumed they were police officers. (Don’t laugh! ) I met Cressida Dick & was invited onto the Trident team, which I rejected for a strategic role. I know categorically not all intel analysts have the same experience as me when it comes to few white suspects. Do I have the expertise or insight now to say that police resources are skewed to any race more or less favourably? I honestly don’t know. I suspect problems facing communities are skewed. The Wire was spot on for how the pieces fit together. Do I think more needs to be done within politics to address crime? Yes. Reduce wealth inequality & education gaps. Do I think more needs to be done within communities to address crime? Yes. If you don’t trust the police, I understand & don’t judge. I long for a place where “the system” protects & persecutes equally.

I did not receive a backlash nor applause, with only likes, love and three supportive comments. My courage had been rewarded with sharing to the audience in the way it was requested. I learnt to flex with my fears, sharing knowledge and experiences that explained just one individuals views.


I am genuinely happy to hear that the new recruitment drive is proactively addressing historic inequalities in recruitment and I’m keen to hear how the enrolment and experiences of black and brown officers is received. We know that representation matters and we must diversify the pipeline to reflect our community otherwise we can never change. But I will scream until I’m blue in the face; diversity means nothing without inclusion. If individuals within the police fail to address racisms, the rewards of diversity will never be realised.


Although I ‘only’ served for two years with the MPS, I still feel a strong affinity with the police family. Not only because I ‘married in’, but because my career has been interconnected ever since. Studying Law, with an interest in systems and people, I have always been drawn back to an interest in understanding how society is influenced by crime and justice.


Scrap that.


I have always been drawn back to understand how society is influenced by inequalities, with crime and justice being one indicator of them.


So, when it comes to my anti-racism work and my connections with policing;

  • I have the courage to feel discomfort.

  • I have the courage to reflect in discomfort and embrace the challenge of confronting it.

  • I am and have been part of a system that was and is still described as “Institutionally racist”.

  • I am in love with a man whose team just caught vandals of a George Floyd mural in Manchester.

  • I challenge those who judge and discriminate against an individual for their race, age, gender, sexuality, religion and disability, as well as those judging another for wearing a police uniform

  • I am proud of my policing family

  • I am aware that policing is imperfect

  • I am aware that policing is improving

  • I am here for progress and remediation

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