"It’s important to be part of a network of colleagues who have lived through similar experiences, so you can share problems and solutions."
Driving change inside and outside the Met
Sergeant Chris Excell has been with the Met for over 13 years now. During his career he has worked in many different units including Emergency response, Neighbourhoods and Territorial Support Group, where he was trained in policing high-risk incidents and large scale disorder.
He has had an incredibly varied career, one that has seen him go overseas as guard of honour for the then President Barack Obama.
Now Chris is working in professionalism as part of the Deputy Commissioner's Delivery Group (DCDG), a group focused on improving the confidence and satisfaction of London’s communities. He was also elected as Deputy Chair of the Black Police Association (MetBPA), an internal group dedicated to improving the working environment of officers and staff from black and other ethnic minority backgrounds.
What were your ambitions when you joined the Met?
I joined the Met in 2008 after finishing my degree in Criminology and Psychology. A brief stint with the Army Reserves made me realise that I didn't want an office job; joining the police was something I wanted to do but just hadn’t realised until then.
When I first joined, it was all about frontline policing for me, the kind of stuff you see on telly. It was about making a difference on a daily basis, going out and doing the job on the street. That hasn’t changed but as a Sergeant, managing a team of officers, I am also focussed on helping them develop and grow. My ambition has always been to make a difference; to my people, my team, the Met and the public, that has never changed.
Why did you initially join the Met's Black Police Association?
I joined the MetBPA not long after I started, I was beginning to realise that there were issues or concerns across the Met that particularly impacted black officers and staff. For example the abuse that black colleagues can receive for wearing police uniform from their own communities, it can really affect you.
It’s been good to have support and give others that support for the day-to-day things that are often overlooked, but have an impact, like micro-aggression or gas lighting. It’s important to be part of a network of colleagues who have lived through similar experiences, so you can share problems and solutions. I really want to get more officers and staff involved in the MetBPA, so we have more voices and experiences, more involvement at meetings (local and national), and more supervisors, managers and staff either signposting or offering advice and support.
What do your two roles involve?
I was elected to be Deputy Chair of the Black Police Association in March 2021, it meant a lot to me because I was elected by my fellow officers and staff. The MetBPA is there to help improve the working environment of officers and staff from black and other ethnic minority backgrounds, while also seeking to maintain and improve relationships between the Met and black and ethnic minority communities in London. As Deputy I work very closely with the Chair and help to decide our strategy and objectives for the year and how we are going to achieve them – the decisions we make can have a real positive impact to the working lives of fellow officers and staff.
The work of the MetBPA and Deputy Commissioner's Delivery Group go together quite well because they both require us to work with the community, building relationships. My main focus as part of the DCDG is to make sure that we are all aligned on promoting diversity of thought, feelings of inclusion and sharing organisational learning. I enjoy the networking most. Seeing colleagues come together, to achieve a mutual goal, is worth the challenging workload.
The MetBPA is just one of several staff support associations that officers and staff at the Met can join. The associations are groups within the Met that offer space for individuals to come together and share their commonalities, from race and gender to religion and disabilities.
How has being an officer at the Met impacted you?
By being a police officer, you see a side of London that nobody else gets to see. That undoubtedly changes you, and changes the lens through which you see things and see people.
I’ve always been frontline and we deal with some extraordinary situations, and that has allowed me to look at myself in a different way and develop as an individual. This job gives you a real opportunity that others may never get, like seeing how resilient you are in a crisis, or applying the emotional intelligence you’ve learned from numerous situations, all of which may be similar, but never the same. In really challenging situations you also learn how to support one another as well as regulate yourself. These are extremely useful transferrable life skills.
What achievement are you most proud of?
It would have to be being part of a guard of honour for President Obama.
I was part of an exchange programme with the Washington Metropolitan Police Department. As part of their annual memorial ceremony, I was invited to perform a guard of honour for President Obama on the steps of the US Capitol. It was funny because during all this ceremony, as he’s walking down the red carpet, he smiled and said under his breath, ‘thank you gentlemen,’ and that was brilliant!
The other is being elected to Deputy Chair of the Black Police Association. It’s not lost on me the significance of it and its legacy. I have the opportunity to help lead such dedicated and loyal officers. And people have to vote for you, they have to like you, and think you’re alright to vote for you! That’s what makes it different and makes it more special
What would you say to someone who is considering joining the Met?
There is space for everyone. A career in the Met will develop you in ways no other profession can. We get to serve and protect Londoners in their most desperate times of need.
We are accountable to our public and that comes with a lot of responsibility but it’s the teamwork, integrity and pride in what you do that allow us to rise to the challenge. A truly rewarding career on many levels.