Thu. Dec 9th, 2021

UK’s first Asian female officer remembered by Met Police

The UK’s first female Asian police officer has been remembered as a “trailblazer of her time”.

Karpal Kaur Sandhu was 27 years old when she joined the Met Police force exactly 50 years ago.

A virtual event was held earlier to commemorate her life. Her daughter Romy Sandhu said: “I’m so proud of my mother, and her legacy.

“It’s wonderful that 50 years on she is an inspiration to generations of new female officers joining the Met.”

Tragically, Karpal’s life was cut short before she reached her 30s. She was killed by her husband in 1973.

Karpal was born to a Sikh family in Zanzibar, east Africa, in 1943 and came to the UK in 1962, where she got a job as a nurse at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield.

In 1971 she joined the Met, becoming the UK’s first Asian woman police officer. She served at Hornsey police station before moving to Leyton.

It was a time of discrimination both inside and outside the police. In comments that jar with modern sensibilities, her chief superintendent noted that she was “proving invaluable with our dealings with the immigrant population” and was assisting “teaching police officers Asian accents”.

Her position was not popular with everyone, at work, at home or in the community. Her husband objected to her career, claiming it was neither suitably Asian nor ladylike.

He received a life sentence for her murder.

Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said: “PC Karpal Kaur Sandhu was a true pioneer and ahead of her time.

“I have no doubt that her decision to join the Met was a brave one and she would have faced considerable challenges along the way. Karpal paved the way for so many others who have gone into policing since 1971.”

Ravjeet Gupta, chair of the Metropolitan Police Sikh Association, added: “Karpal was an invaluable ambassador who helped break down barriers with London’s communities and will always be remembered for being a trailblazer of her time.”

In 1971 there were 700 female officers in London. There are now 8,000, with women making up 27% of the Met’s officers. Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick says the force is recruiting to increase the number of BAME officers in London in a bid to make it “the most trusted force in the world”.

The lack of black and ethnic minority representation in police forces in England has previously been described as “shocking”.

Since 1999’s Macpherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence case highlighted evidence of “institutional racism” in the Metropolitan Police, attention has focused on its recruitment of officers from BAME backgrounds.

The Met has put in place an inclusion and diversity strategy which it says it hopes will address the imbalance.

Source: (BBC)

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