Even as she edges ever closer to retirement age, PC Andrea Reynolds of the West Midlands Police force has decided to “have a last push to illuminate the debate” around why there’s such a disconnect between the black community and the police in the UK.
After almost 30 years of service, Andrea felt that the “gulf was getting wider” and the recent Black Lives Matter protests show quite powerfully how disgruntled this community is.
That’s why she decided to take on the challenge of studying for an MA in Social Research with the University of Birmingham in 2018 writing a dissertation that focuses on procedural justice 1 and its impact on black communities. On top of her active service as a police officer, her duties as a mother, a partner, a church Minister,and a founder of a youth mentoring programme, she graduated with a distinction for her dissertation in 2020. She is also a poet and a keen guitarist.
Andrea has always been a formidable woman, though. When she graduated from police training back in the early nineties, she immediately handed in her resignation telling senior officers that she didn’t think she would be given a level playing field and she didn’t want to “expend her energy in that way”.
Brazenly and bravely standing up for her principles has had Andrea marked out as difficult and divisive throughout her career. Luckily at that time, the Assistant Chief Constable (ACC), who had remembered Andrea from the accelerated graduates programme, got in touch with her to find out why she was resigning.
She told him in no uncertain terms that her treatment on the team had been "extremely difficult" to bear and was an “obvious reminder of colour”. She also made the claim that the police force was not ready for her “injection of colour” and “a canvas without colour was no canvas at all”.
Surprisingly to Reynolds, ACC Wardle launched an investigation and the response to its findings vindicated her to the extent that the team received reprimands and training. Only then did she feel she could accept a position.
Being a little stubborn and of the opinion that it’s “better the devil you know”, Andrea rejoined the same shift team in order, she says, to “face the demons” that she knew would follow her wherever she went.
“I knew I would survive,” she told Shakti Women. “My church put some serious prayer around me.”
Going back was “most uncomfortable”, she remembers. “Obviously when you challenge such an established system, you’re the divisive one, you’re the trouble maker.”
1 Procedural justice is the idea of fairness in the processes that resolve disputes and allocate resources. One aspect of procedural justice is related to discussions of the administration of justice and legal proceedings. In other words, it’s the neutrality, respect, voice and trustworthiness that should combine to make all public procedures fair.
Andrea admits that as a black woman born in London but raised in Jamaica (because her parents could not stand the racis