SC Edna Knight
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am a 57-year-old Black British woman of Nigerian heritage, and I now work as a Detention Officer at Essex Police. Before this, I was a Foster Carer, and before that I was a Catering Manager, working in central London for a large contract catering company, in charge of their facilities at the Royal Mail and at Westminster City Council. My hobbies include watching TV (especially the Housewives!), travelling (my most bizarre destination was North Korea!), spending time with my family in Australia, the UK, and in our holiday home in Spain. My biggest achievements in life are: representing my borough as an 800 metres runner in my youth; preventing a man committing suicide; being a mother of a premature baby after many miscarriages, and joining Essex Police’s Special Constabulary.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I enjoy interacting with members of the public, in all different circumstances – good and bad. It’s great fun policing some of the community events, such as the ‘V’ Festival at Highlands House, Gay Pride, the Breast Cancer Fun Run and more. I enjoy trying to be a reasonable voice, calming people down in difficult moments, trying to head off conflict. There are times when we have to act in a robust manner, but there is a lot more talking, offering advice, and providing reassuring human contact than people sometimes think. When I come home, I feel I have made a difference, and I feel happy about that. It is very rewarding.
Why is diversity and inclusion so important in and outside of the workplace?
Britain is policed by consent, but it is important that the community sees itself in the police. That is why it is important for BAME people to join up – so that the community can see people like themselves inside the police force. We know about our communities, and we have the skills to deal with them. For example, if somebody from my Nigerian community (Ijaw) needed help, I could speak their language to them, gain their trust, and perhaps better understand the issues they were dealing with. Another example would be my mother. When she was a girl, she was made subject to FGM. So, having family experience of this practice, when Essex Police was invited to a community workshop about the dangers, I was able to speak with authority and make a personal contact with many of the young girls attending it.
Were there any barriers to joining Essex Police?
It was always my ambition to be a police officer, but my parents were dead against it. I am black and a female, and they thought I would be discriminated against in the police force. Consequently, I did not join up. After they died, and later in my own life, I felt able to achieve this ambition, as both my own circumstances, and the culture inside the police, have changed.
In addition, I struggled to meet the fitness level, but the need to meet it offered an incentive for better fitness. I reapplied after six months and met the standard.
How has Essex Police as an organisation supported you in your career?
Essex Police have always been supportive from the outset. There is a BAME coordinator who keeps in contact with me, and I can raise any concerns with her, should I need to, and I had a BAME buddy who showed me the ropes in the early days. These schemes have greatly developed in recent years. I have never encountered nepotism, or cronyism, and I have only seen jobs filled transparently and obtained by merit. Starting as a Special Constable, I was promoted to Special Sergeant, Special Inspector, then Special Chief Inspector. I enjoyed all these roles, but preferred the boots-on-the-ground duties, so I ultimately decided to resume duties as a Special Constable. In both going up the grade structure, and coming down it, as a black officer, I received the support of Essex Police.
Tell us something interesting about your role?
I joined the Special Constabulary because it gave me the flexibility of working when it fitted in with my full-time work commitments and family responsibilities. When you tell people you are a Special Constable, there’s a real ‘wow factor' especially when you are black!
What advice would you give to anyone identifying as BAME thinking about joining Essex Police?
Do it! It is very rewarding. It provides a sense of self-confidence and self-respect, working for the good guys and helping your fellow members of the community. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.