Police Superintendents Logo

Stephen Lawrence Day - blog by Harvi Khatkar

On Stephen Lawrence Day 2021, the PSA's lead for Black, Asian and minority ethnic members, Harvi Khatkar of West Midlands Police, shares her thoughts on the issues and debate that have followed his murder:

"Almost thirty years after the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the debate, narrative and challenges it provoked, are far from resolved.
This year, the anniversary of his murder falls soon after we have read with interest the independent report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. Whilst the report is receiving attention for a multitude of reasons, what I find key within comments made following the publication, is that the committee states that “both the reality and the perception of unfairness matter”.  I think this statement is crucial.
We can and will continue to debate for decades, whether it is factually correct that institutional racism exists in policing or in any other organisation, but if people perceive this to be the case, it can never be ignored.  If only a small minority of our communities feel they are treated unfairly by our Service, then we have an issue to address.  Every voice matters.
Our Service has much to achieve when it comes to addressing matters of race, equality and inclusion within our workforce and within the delivery of our Service, and hearing these voices, learning from lived experience and prioritising empathy are the only ways in which we’ll make a change.
The famous quote from Bill Bullard summarises this perfectly: 

“The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world.  It requires profound purpose-larger-than-the-self kind of understanding.”
The ability to ‘live in another’s world’ is far more difficult than it sounds.  Despite best efforts to immerse ourselves in someone else’s reality, our perception will always be tarnished by our experiences, learning and values.  What we can do is take every effort to listen, to learn and to build this information into what we do and who we become.
We’re a society based on difference and this should be celebrated and mirrored within our own workforce.  There is no common type of police officer that we strive to recruit. In fact, we need and want difference in every sense when building a workforce based on legitimacy.  This is true in every respect but one.  Our values.  This is a constant we demand and must not deviate from.  If we achieve this, we become an eclectic mix of personalities, skills, experiences and talents with a common goal to deliver communities who see themselves in us.
Going forward, my role will be to ensure that the voices of our members from under-represented groups are heard, and that as an association, representing the Service’s most senior operational leaders, we provide positive influence towards the crucial work to address the myriad of issues connected to this poignant day in our history.
We owe it to Stephen, to his family and to everyone in our society to strive for equality and inclusion in every part of our Service and that’s a commitment our association has wholeheartedly made."

Harvi Khatkar