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PC T.J Johnson-Powell began his career at the Met 14 years ago, he felt that his community were underrepresented in the police and wanted to be part of creating a more inclusive police service. Since then, he has tried to change the way his community see the Met as well as effect real change from within. For the first three years of his career, he worked as a police officer for the Emergency Response Patrol Team and later in the Safer Transport Team, before specialising as a firearms officer in a counter-terrorism role at Heathrow airport. Now working with new recruits as part of the street duties training team, he hopes to inspire and educate the next generation of police officers. What was your main motivation for becoming a police officer?
Having grown up in one of the worst areas in London in the 80s I decided I wanted to do something different from what my peers were doing, I wanted to make a difference. I also believed that a change was needed within the Met, at the time the police represented oppression for myself and Black people in the UK. As an officer I wanted to work closely with the community to improve their relationship with the police but also to change the landscape of policing from the inside out. What does your current role entail?
I work in Aviation Policing as a Firearms Officer, where my main role is to disrupt and investigate any Counter Terrorism issues around Heathrow airport. Day to day, we work to secure the airport in identifying any criminal activity and acting as a visual deterrent to it, as well as finding wanted offenders who may be going in or out of the country. Part of my training involved taking a course that helps me to identify what is natural and unnatural behavior in the context of the airport and how to resolve any suspicions I may have about someone. Recently I have been seconded to Street Duties, taking new recruits following their training at Hendon and assisting them to practically apply this. It has been a great experience working with the next generation of the police. What has been the most significant barrier you have had to overcome?
Family members refused to talk or acknowledge me for years, and friends I once called close gradually stopped contacting me altogether. I was, and am, still called a traitor by my own people sometimes, it’s definitely been a hard road to navigate but I find changing the minds of my own people one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. At family or friend functions I find it opens up a healthy dialogue, they ask me questions as much as I ask them and it does have an impact. How have the last six months made you feel about being a black police officer?
The last six months of policing have been really difficult. As a black man firstly, and then a police officer, I have felt very much in the middle. It’s these negative perceptions of both my community and the Met that are being solidified in people’s minds and further dividing us. I think both sides need to come together and understand we are not defined by the actions of the very small negative acting minorities in our communities, and seek to deal with the unconscious biases that may guide our action. What have you found most rewarding in your role?
As well as changing the perceptions of my community, I find being in a role that is different to the norm and seen as more specialist than most is amazing, especially as there aren’t many Black officers within firearms. Also working in the tutor team for street duties, you’re a shoulder for these new starters, it’s the most important time of your training and being a part of this is very rewarding.’ Are there any key moments or experiences that particularly stand out during your time at the Met?
There are many rewarding moments, one that sticks out in my mind is saving a woman that was at the mercy of her ex-partner. Moments before I arrived he had attacked her, I remember running up flights and flights of stairs in this block of flats so I could help. Protecting people, making them feel safer, that is really rewarding. If you could give one piece of advice to people considering a career in the Met?
This job is open to you, if you want change, sign up and be the change that you want to see. YOU are the key.
Fulfilling her lifelong ambition.
Staying true to herself.
Volunteer Community Ambassador for the Met.
Bringing communities together.
Safeguarding victims of crime.
Supporting officers with their physical and mental well-being.
Mentor for disadvantaged girls.
Helping to recruit the next generation of police officers.
The Met’s first post-war black officer.
Working alongside police officers on the frontline.
The Met’s first black female police officer.
Making this city a safer place for future generations.
The most senior black female police officer in the UK.
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