Everyday Extraordinary interview: Glen Williams

Everyday Extraordinary

I have an thirst for knowledge and an understanding how people work socially, tempered with an equal dislike of injustice and inequality.

It has been a key element in my life. In striving to find my own identity as an individual ascribed as a 'black' person born in Britain, I have found that the concept of equality is a complex and contestable thing meaning different things to different people. From my racialised position equality has been experienced in its opposite form of inequality, but for me that personal experience has helped me find my identity as a British individual. Having experienced inequality through school, work and the various voluntary positions in leading roles within Staff Support Organisation within the Police Service, I have found that the denial of equality to others based on gender, race, disability, sexuality, social class and faith is something that is committed by all regardless. The understanding of equality in its true sense of being applicable to all is something I believe will never be achieved but the pursuit of it is still the most important thing we can all do to make the world a better place. It is that pursuit that gives my life purpose and which will hopefully be the legacy I leave behind for those I love and those who love or hate me.

Increased social mobility for those who have been labelled disadvantaged. One of the lessons I have learnt, even more so with my relief work with Mencap, is that those labelled as disabled or having learning disabilities have just as much to offer the world as those labelled 'normal'. More equality would allow us all to benefit from such knowledge that currently is being marginalised, alienated and rendered 'invisible' due to inequality, discrimination and prejudice.

The most important turning point in my life occurred in the mid 1980's when as a young CID (Criminal Investigation Department) officer at Nottingham Central Police Station, who was on the point of leaving the department due to the pressures of racial discrimination within it, I was approached by a young police Sergeant named Anil Patani. He told me he had heard of the hardships I was suffering in the department as the first 'black' CID officer from a Afro/Caribbean background to have obtained the status of detective in Nottingham. He asked if I would join him and two other Asian officers to challenge a decision claiming they were not suitable to join the CID. For three years we fought a case that become known as Singh versus Nottinghamshire Police and in 1990, against all expectations, we won. It was the first case of its kind where serving police officers took the organisation to court. It changed equality policies within Nottinghamshire Police and had a national impact for those who had been suffering discrimination but had been too afraid to take on the perceived might of a powerful organisation such as the police. An interesting 'excess' of that process was that many 'white' officers who had previously been told they were not good enough found that evidence had to be produced to back such assessments. Thus a fairer system of recruitment came out of the case that benefited all.

A belief that challenging inequality, discrimination and prejudice does make things better no matter how impossible the task may seem at first glance. As a child I saw the Trade Unionist Bill Morris on TV. It was the first time I had seen a 'black' British face on television who spoke with such authority and knowledge for a fairer society for all. From that moment on I wanted to be like him. I even told my career officer that I wanted to be an industrial relations officer just like Bill Morris. I was told to set my sights a 'little lower' and consider working in D10 at the Boots factory, something I did and greatly enjoyed but as a student during the six-week holiday periods. In a way through the police I achieved that wish of fighting inequality as my old model Bill Morris, in a round about way, but along the way having experiences which were greater than fiction.


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