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Black History: 1968 – 2009: Owens V Norwell Roberts

March 16, 2009

I was trawling through the internet this fine morning and I found an article on Norwell Roberts titled something like Britain’s first Black police officer rubbishes MET BPA’s boycott of recruiting. Interesting I thought. Firstly it has now transpired that Roberts was not Britain’s first Black cop; for a PC Kent pounded the beat in 18 something. A programme about Kent is to be televised soon.

And then I remembered the 1968 Olympics when two Black 400 metre runners raised their hands, wore a Black glove and bowed their heads at their presentation ceremony. Before anyone starts to spout out that this was Black power; I disagree; it wasn’t about Black power. The statement was about being shackled, about having to work the cotton fields and run for one’s country.  Others didn’t seem to have to do that, others didn’t seem to have the same double entendre that Black athletes had. Some couldn’t afford training shoes. Even The Australian medallist is said to have wanted to raise his hand and become involved in this historic moment. This is where a handful of Black athletes said, “up yours,” to the establishment, to the ruling powers and to race discrimination.

Wasn’t Jesse Owens the Black sprinter that won gold  in Hitler’s back yard then brought in to try and control those that were trying to stand up for their rights. When I found the article about Norwell Roberts I wondered whether the same thing was happening here. Norwell is brought out in 2009 to argue against what the MET BPA are doing. And wasn’t Owens  left to race against horses? So was Norwell Roberts brought out and then put back to pasture in a similar way?

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15 comments

  1. It is indeed true that the Met have used the words of Mr Roberts to balance the argument of the BPA.

    The truth of the matter is that the BPA is an antequated “separatist” relic which fosters racism and division and does more to harm the police service and minority ethnic officers than it does to support either.

    The sooner it goes to hell in a handcart, then the better off we will all be.


  2. Bullseye, I must admit you have more “balls” then Jacqui Smith and Ed Balls put togther. Antequated it might be, but the NBPA we have currently is exactly what the establishment has wanted; a weak, useless, and incompetent beast. That way it’s easy to say, “we told you so,” when it fails. Some of us actually want an effective, intelligent, and strategic movement that does assist in dealing with the ills of race. Something that is proportionate and helps victims as well as the service in dealing with difficult areas. Like I said, you do have balls! And welcome. Tea? Perhaps what you mean is, the one that we have at the moment needs to reform BIG STYLE.


  3. This PC Kent sounds like an interesting chap from the independent article, shame though- it looks like the doc will only be shown up north.
    I read an article on the MPDs black police assoc the other day, they seem to have a much better idea what their about than those for home office forces, mind you it was in their force mag.


  4. I had the pleasure of meeting Norwell several years ago. What a larger than life character he is. This man took “real shit” in his early years from what I understand. He should be respected by all for the way he cracked on in what “was” a racist society. No BPA association in those day’s.

    Does BPA really represent the views of black officers? – those at my station think not. That really is a problem for BPA to address, without hints of Uncle Tom to Norwell. This bloke has legend status.


  5. I have legend status too!


  6. We all strive for it 🙂 nothing worse than not being known. I think BPA could do with having Norwell QPM as a figurehead, but then again he tells it the way it is.

    They see racism where perhaps there is none. I was taking “tea” myself with a very influential person the other week (not job) and she didn’t see the ceiling at the top of the job as racism, but more a top university intellectual clique. They promote their own kind so it’s not just VEM staff who suffer but street urchins/working class like me. I think she was spot on, and it reflects elsewhere such as political parties too. There needs to be a level playing field for all.

    I have seen the talent coming through in VEM ranks and believe they will make it on merit eventually. They are too good not to. I think it will be somebody like Norwell, doing it from within who gets there, not from BPA.


  7. That messes up my plan to be the next Commissioner the; I never went Uni.


  8. Met anon. I have to say you don’t need a degree to be a good police officer. I would hazard a guess and say you are a good thief taker and a decent person, that makes you a good cop. You can be a part of my team any day. Seeing as you are ‘moping’ a little may I offer you a prestigious Twining Oscar, as sponsored by Zee TV and Tata, for turning up here and your contributions? What say thee?


  9. I decided to scrap the commissioner plan- it didnt take long for me to realise how bored i’d get patroling a desk, (on my own of course).

    I would be honoured to accept this award on behalf of non-graduates everywhere.

    My first Sergeant told me something i have never forgoten and usually found to be amazingly accurate…

    The cleverer a person is the less common sense they have…go on just think about the cleverest person you know,…told you.


  10. If you knew Noz Roberts, then you’d know that he’s no-one’s Uncle Tom. Listen well to what he says – you might not agree with what he says, but he has earned the right to be listened to with gravitas and respect.


  11. Ginger

    I said I’d met him and of course he’s not. I think there was a hint of it in T’s post as regards BPA seeing him rolled out to put a differing view. He is a ledge.

    Come on Sgt T does Norwell get a Twining Oscar??


  12. I have no doubts that DS Roberts is a good man. My point was, it is easy for those in power to wheel out other Black colleagues when “they,” as in the establishment, are under extreme pressure and cannot cope. The hope is to undermine those that may have legitimate claims. In the case of 1968 Jesse was approached to try and quash the “uprising” amongst Black athletes. They refused and told him to pack his bags. He said something like this was not the way to do business.

    DS Roberts and others have been wheeled out in a similar fashion, but even DS Roberts said that the BPA may have a point. The fact is the establishment finds those that challenge it difficult to deal with so on come the Cowboys and Indians type games. The 1968 events changed the course of Civil Rights and sport and arguably allowed Black athletes equality of opportunity. The BPA movement simply wants discrimination to stop against it’s members.

    When have you ever heard a Police Force admit to race discrimination. The service simply cannot admit it, and whilst it fights, yes I said it fights all claims, there will always be conflict, lies, damn lies and statistics.

    Without pressure from the Lawrence’s we may never have had the Macpherson enquiry, and it pointed to many many things. So it is the establishment’s use of Black people that is questionable. Norwell Roberts endured alot; THE FACT IS HE SHOULD NOT HAVE ENDURED ANY RACISM. Let’s face it and draw on another example. In India in 1947 Mahatma Gandhi was described in derogitory ways by the establishment, and the upper classes used divide and rule then; but history has stated that Gandhi was not wrong; even though they were telling him at the time he was wrong.


  13. If you go to my awards page met anon has got an Oscar!


  14. Stressedoutcop – I know what you said and my comments weren’t directed at you. Twining – you are right that Noz should never have endured racism. Nobody should. Hopefully things are better now, although still not where they should be.

    What I am saying is very simple – if Noz says something, listen well. He is no-ones’s Uncle Tom.


  15. Sometimes when Black officer’s are used in this way, and I know plenty that allow themselves to be used, some do so knowingly, and some do so not knowingly. This piece wasn’t necessarily about Noz, it was about “Uncle Tom.” I will no doubt write what these “Uncle Tom’s” do and how they work.



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