t’s important to feel welcome and included wherever people work, but some jobs suffer from stereotypes that might prevent people applying if they feel the organisation isn’t the right fit for them. The Metropolitan Police Service (the Met) has been working to ensure it’s a modern, inclusive employer – a force that will truly reflect a city as diverse as London.
An inclusive workforce makes for better policing – and the Met encourages colleagues to have open conversations to generate a better understanding of the challenges they face.
Three Met officers – PCs Amna Hanif, Daniel Morris and Harjot Sehmi – discuss with each other how they’ve built their careers without compromising their faith.
Harjot: Working on the Territorial Support Group (TSG), we go to boroughs where there’s gang crime, knife crime and drug dealing. It gives you a buzz arresting violent offenders because you’ve got a knife off the street, which could have saved a life. I love doing that. What roles have you had in the Met and why did you join?
Daniel: I’ve always had an interest in helping people. I used to volunteer for the ambulance and police service, and then I decided to join the Met full-time because of all the different opportunities on offer. I’ve now been in the Met 10 years. Before that, I was a Special [volunteer police officer], and that helps you understand policing. I’m now a learning and development coordinator. I train and prepare new recruits ahead of becoming officers on the street.
Harjot: I was a Special too. It gave me the feel for what it’s like to be an officer and I was instantly sold.
Amna: I currently work on response in North London. It’s not an easy job, but it’s rewarding. I’ve been in the Met a year and I joined through the two-year degree entry programme. It’s been really varied and fast paced. When I was 16, I was a cadet at West Mercia Police for two years – that gave me an insight into policing and inspired me to become an officer after graduating.
I’ve been in the job nine years and I still come across things that are new to me. It’s constantly evolving
Harjot: For me being a Sikh goes hand in hand with being an officer by helping others and serving the community. What does your faith mean to you?
Amna: I’m Muslim and my faith is part of my identity. I use it as a centre to my moral compass. In a career like this where right and wrong is what the job is really about, my faith is an extension of that and helps me carry out day-to-day duties.
Daniel: Being Jewish is part of my personality, character and upbringing. Judaism is a very old, traditional faith. It has a lot of beautiful rules and laws to help create a blueprint and enhance a certain way of life. I don’t work on the sabbath, I don’t work on the festivals, I don’t eat non-kosher food, and that’s really important to me. The Met has always supported me and accommodated my religious beliefs throughout my career. It has given me flexibility in my working life.
Harjot: Our gurus gave us our turbans and long beards as uniform to make us stand out from the crowd, so anyone could identify you as a Sikh and come to you for help. I find that when wearing a police uniform, people will come to you for help. It’s second nature to me being an officer because it’s ingrained in my religion that you should always help people, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or if they’re rich or poor.
Daniel: So do you think your faith helps you communicate better with the people around you?
Amna: People tend to think that if you’re religious then that might make it harder for you as an officer, but I think it gives you an advantage. I’m able to relate to people from the Muslim community, empathise with them and build rapport. I like to think “how can I use my faith to be a better officer?”.
Harjot: When I engage with Asian communities, I often speak Punjabi to them and explain our reasons for being there. I find that helps to break down barriers and build relationships. I’ll also teach my colleagues about how different cultures work, so it’s a benefit to everyone.
We just celebrated Vaisakhi, which is the celebration of a new year of the birth of the Khalsa. I arranged a community event at the gurdwara [place of worship] and my colleagues came along. It was a blessing to go there on a religious day in uniform to show them what the day is about and why we celebrate it. I’m always happy to answer questions to help others understand my religion.
My family have always been supportive of me being an officer. I have a passion to make things better
Amna: My family has been supportive. I wonder what your families thought of your decision to go into policing?
Daniel: Yes, my family have always been supportive of me being an officer. When I was growing up, my parents were very involved in our synagogue [place of worship] and taught me to think of others by volunteering to help the community. So I have a passion to make things better. I’m also part of the Jewish Police Association (JPA) in the Met where I support Jewish officers and help build an understanding of Judaism.
Harjot: My great-grandfather was in the army in India, so my family had careers in uniform. When I told them I was applying to become an officer, they were really supportive and proud of me.
Amna: I found that regardless of my faith, my family had concerns for my personal safety and wellbeing – but the training and internal support I receive has helped to reassure them, and they’ve always supported me.
Daniel: And when you joined policing and the Met, did you worry how you would balance your faith with being an officer?
Amna: When I first joined policing, I did think “am I going to be able to practise my faith?”. But daily prayers are well accommodated – there are prayer rooms at stations, and I feel completely comfortable to wear the hijab. During Ramadan, my supervisors and team looked out for me so I could go back to the station, giving me ample time to open and close my fast, which helped me a lot. Being on shift during Ramadan was challenging, but the support of my team made it easier.
Daniel: In Judaism, we have the Shabbat, which is the day of rest where we don’t work from Friday when the sun goes down until darkness on Saturday. At the Met, I’ve been able to have a flexible working pattern since I joined to support this. It was a bit tricky to start with because it hadn’t been done before, but it’s become more accepted. Now there are equal opportunities to allow people from different faiths to work for an emergency service.
Harjot: I think the Met accommodates my religion really well. If we’re sent out on a raid or protest where we’re required to wear protective equipment such as helmets, my supervisors have always supported me in being able to tie my bandana and they’ve been very respectful with it.
Daniel: I wear my kippah with my uniform – it’s part of my identity. I’m representing my faith when I wear it, just like I represent the Met by wearing my uniform.
Amna: I think it’s a myth that your faith is going to be a hindrance in the role. I like to think how I can use my faith to be a better officer. When people see a female Muslim officer like me on the street, it can change public perceptions.
I’m Muslim and my faith is part of my identity. I use it as a centre to my moral compass
Harjot: At the Met, we’re always recruiting new officers from different backgrounds, and that’s really important. Have you come across any Met initiatives to improve life for people from different religious backgrounds? Has this changed over time, and what do you think could be done better?
Daniel: The staff support associations are there to support and improve experiences for people from different backgrounds, and I got involved with the JPA pretty much as soon as I started at the Met. The majority of faiths are represented, and we have meetings every month to discuss issues and support each other. We provide equality impact assessments on lots of different policies, and uniform is one of these discussions. We work with the supervisors to find solutions and educate people in the Met on religious practices.
Harjot: Yes, it’s important to teach officers about our religions and how we accommodate that in daily policing.
Amna: I agree. Understanding other religions is fundamental to being an officer. There’s more we have in common than we have in difference. For me to want people to understand and respect my values, I have to understand and respect other faiths, and those with no faith. And I think in the process of doing so, you realise that there is a lot of common ground with a lot of shared values.
Daniel: I’ve been in a lot of discussions with different faiths, and that helps reinforce a sense of what we have in common – hearing similar themes coming through and certain ways of behaving. The fact that we know we are all there and that we have each other’s corners is really helpful. There’s a good support structure.
Amna: When I was growing up, I thought policing was all about fast cars and chasing bad guys. Once I became a cadet, I learned that it’s not. How would you describe the job, and what would you say to someone thinking about a career in the Met?
Daniel: There are so many different roles within the Met – that’s one of the great reasons to join. You can do the job and keep your faith, no matter which faith it is. It’s a wonderful career – if you care about helping people, care about London, care about right and wrong and making the world a better place. In Judaism, we have a saying “Tikkun Olam” which means “heal the world” and one of the things we do as police officers is to be a part of that.
Harjot: Totally agree with you, Daniel. There are so many opportunities in the Met. You can go into different roles and get so many experiences. You can move around and find what’s suitable for you. I’ve been in the job nine years and I still come across things that are new to me. It’s a great career and it’s constantly evolving.
Amna: I agree with you both. No two days are the same, and there are so many openings in the Met. For me, being able to respond to someone’s call and provide a victim with a helping hand when they need it – that’s immensely satisfying. There’s no other job that gives you that sort of pride.
Inspired by these police officers? Find out more information about the Metropolitan Police Service and how to join here