Force’s only black Superintendent retires after 32 years − and urges young black people to follow in his footsteps
Black History Month:
One of West Midlands Police’s most senior black officers has retired after a law and order career stretching back more than 30 years − and has urged more members of the black community to “make a difference" by choosing police careers.
Keith Fraser − the only black Superintendent currently with the force − has spoken of his immense pride at serving the public since his first day on patrol back in 1985.
Pictured: Keith talks to student officer Stefan Wedderburn on foot patrol in Wolverhampton:
In a varied career he’s gone from beat patrols in Barking, via New Scotland Yard to the West Midlands where he’s worked in child protection, crime investigation, neighbourhood policing and specialist roles like tactical firearms commander.
He believes diversity among officer ranks is crucial in order to police effectively − and is encouraging young people from black and minority ethnic communities to follow in his footsteps.
He said: “The service really does need and value difference. Anyone who cares about their communities should look at joining the police… there is no point standing on the outside looking in when you could make a real difference.
“One of the proudest moments in my life was putting on my uniform for the first time: the look of pride on my family’s faces will never leave me. It made me feel so happy and confirmed I’d make the right decision.
“I’ve lost track of the amount of times people have come up to me in the street to shake my hand or say how ‘it’s good to see a black police officer here’ − some have literally stopped their car to get out and say thanks!
“People who are not white shouldn’t be such a rarity in policing."
Pictured: Keith in his earlier days as a police officer
Around nine per cent of West Midlands Police officers are from Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) communities − the second highest representation in UK policing − and the force has introduced a programme aimed at attracting, developing and retaining BME staff.
‘Discovery Days’ at universities and schools, community centres and places of worship have been held to encourage applications from BME communities.
It’s paid off as nearly a third of the force’s latest PC applicants hail from BME communities − and last year the force was named one of the UK’s most inclusive employers in the Excellence in Diversity Awards.
Keith added: “I have experienced some challenges based on the colour of my skin and some racist comments − but they have been very rare occasions. There is less racism in the police than some people want to believe.
“I feel sometimes where we get it wrong it’s as a result of unwitting actions or lack of knowledge. The vast majority of police officers I have come into contact with are really driven with a passion and a desire to help others. Most members of the public will not see most of what officers do to help them behind-the-scenes."
Since joining West Midlands Police in 2005, Keith has worked in Birmingham, Stourbridge, Walsall and Wolverhampton and been the force’s lead for children and young people and a victims’ champion.
He’s also helped create a group aimed at preventing young people getting sucked into crime and gang activity and received several bravery commendations, including one for tackling a knifeman while he was off duty at a post office paying his car tax!
“It’s a hugely rewarding job," added Keith. “I recall investigating a mugging of a lady − it was in a quiet residential areas and before the time of widespread CCTV. I was determined to catch the offender. I got him, he was jailed − and the thanks I got from the lady was really touching and I’ll never forget her kind words.
“As a child I always had a strong desire to help others − it sounds a bit clichéd but I think it was driven by watching my mom and dad who worked hard, gave a lot to others and expected nothing in return.
“I first applied to become a police officer when I was 13-years-old. Thankfully someone from the Home Office replied with a fantastic letter of encouragement and advice for the future. The person who took the time to reply helped to keep my desire to be a cop alive."
And what advice would Superintendent Keith Fraser give PC Keith Fraser as he prepared to embark on his police career in October 1985?
He added: “Being yourself is really important because it’s what you bring is an individual to policing that matters and is most effective. Rather than believing you should try be a clone of those around you.
“The public relate to you better and the police service definitely benefits from difference. I think I may have tried a little bit too hard initially to try and hide me as an individual − so be yourself would be my number one piece of advice."