“Attitudes are changing.”
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“Attitudes are changing.” PC Chelle Buckley talks about life as a Romani Gypsy police officer.
At Essex Police, our officers come from a wide variety of backgrounds. We value the different perspectives and experiences they bring to the job.
It’s Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) History Month and on 2 June we showed our support by raising the community’s flag at our Chelmsford headquarters.
PC Chelle Buckley is of Romani Gypsy heritage and has worked for Essex Police since 2011.
She served as a police community support officer and as an investigator in our Public Protection Investigation Unit before becoming a regular officer three years ago.
Chelle said she is ‘really proud’ of her ancestry, which comes from her mother’s side of the family. Her nan’s home still features many traditional Romani items like horseshoes and her granddad spoke the language fluently.
However, when Chelle joined Essex Police she feared being judged if she was open about her background.
“I was worried about people’s opinions of me. I thought if I was honest, people wouldn’t treat me like they would everyone else and I didn’t want that to happen.
“I just wanted to be treated normally. I wouldn’t lie to people if they asked me but I wasn’t going to make it the first thing I told people. I didn’t feel comfortable.”
As Chelle’s career progressed she became more confident to talk about her roots at work. And, she said, the force and her colleagues supported her by accepting her heritage and wanting to learn about it.
“I felt the GRT event at HQ was a huge support in allowing my heritage to be understood and showing that Essex Police wants to build relationships, breaking down barriers.”
When Chelle began attending incidents involving the GRT community, her background enabled her to quickly to build a rapport.
“Instantly they [members of the GRT community] would change and be more willing to talk to me,” she said.
Chelle believes negative stories about the GRT community in the media have a detrimental effect on public attitudes but is excited about the work going on to challenge those stereotypes.
“The perception of the outside world can be that the community is dishonest, committing crime and being antisocial or violent but they are really not. They are misunderstood.
“The vast majority are hard-working, honest people who just want to earn a living and look after their families. It’s a strong community. It’s all about loyalty and looking after one another.
“I think some of negative perceptions come from the mainstream media. A lot of the time, it’s only the negative side of the community that is portrayed. It’s the unconscious bias – and if negative perceptions are instilled at a very young age it’s hard to change.”
As Essex Police takes a more proactive approach to engaging with the GRT community and raising awareness of GRT history and culture amongst our officers and staff, Chelle believes everyone will benefit.
“From my experience as a police officer attending incidents, there can a barrier with the GRT community. Some people don’t want to give us information and others are possibly concerned about liaising with us. It’s hard because, if a crime has been committed, you’ve got to deal with the situation, it’s not personal.
“Just by meeting the community and learning about them, it will do the world of good. It will break down those barriers and build relationships, which will be amazing.
“Attitudes are changing, slowly. There’s a still a lot of work to do but it’s all about educating people and helping them to understand. Once you start to understand our background and value those differences, it will be better.”
Chelle has family links to policing – her dad was a detective in south Essex and her mum worked within child protection before becoming a schools’ liaison officer. She said her family ‘couldn’t be prouder’ despite some of them having reservations about her joining.
What would her advice be to anyone from a Gypsy, Roma or Traveller background who’s thinking of applying to become a police officer?
“Just do it! It’s such a good job and you’ll be supported. Be honest and if you have any concerns, talk to people. There’s no other job like it. Have faith in yourself and go for it.”
Has Chelle inspired you?
People from all walks of life are applying to join Essex Police and everyone is welcome if you share our values and want to protect and serve our communities.