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detective sergeant norwel roberts
Detective Sergeant Norwell Roberts Became PC 631 in 1967, and also thereby became the Metropolitan Police Service's first black policeman. (Mohammed Yussuf Daar, a Tanzanian Asian from Coventry, became the first policeman from the ethnic community in 1966.) Norwell had been working as a laboratory technician at a university when he jokingly filed out the Mets application form. Norwell did not expect to be selected, as a black friend of his had been rejected. Oddly enough even before he received his selection letter, the newspapers carried the story of London's first black policeman. Told by a friend "That's you." Norwell replied, "Don't be silly." When the police selection committee board asked him how he would react to drunks taunting him about his colour, he told them he would ignore them. Norwell at the time was oblivious at just how much ignoring he would have to do, and worse yet, that the racial abuse would come from his own colleagues! As fate would have it Norwell Roberts joined on the same day as Sir Paul Condon, who as commissioner, would have to face unpleasant facts of the Met being found endemically racist by Sir William Macpherson's official enquiry. Graduating from Police Training College at Hendon, Norwell was posted to Bow Street Police Station. The intimation of what he was to face for years was abruptly brought home to him when the station sergeant told him,. "I'll see that you never finish your probation nigger." Thereafter Roberts was subjected to three years of racial abuse and victimisation. Roberts said "the sergeant told everybody not to talk to me....I had buttons ripped off my uniform, matchsticks stuck in the keyhole of my car, and half-crowns scratched down the side of my car. I had my tires slashed and my car was relocated to double yellow lines, where it was towed away to the car compound. I also had cups of tea thrown in my face." What was even worse, when he was carrying out his duties making arrests and called for back-up, none came and no explanations were given. Norwell said he coped by "getting into the bath and crying every evening." What hurt him the most was that friends who trained with him and who were also posted to Bow Police Station, stopped speaking to him for fear of the sergeant. Despite all this, Norwell did not complain or even contemplate leaving the Force until one day when on duty outside Covent Garden Opera House. An area police driver drove past and shouted at him "You black c---". Everyone turned to look at him and he felt so ashamed and humiliated, that he later complained to his superintendent who asked him, "What do you expect me to do about it" It was however from the ordinary Londoners from whom Roberts drew comfort, as they unlike his colleagues were eager to talk to him. Norwell recalls, "Having so much pressure from inside the station, seeing people who wanted to talk to me was such a relief, it was like manna from heaven! I never wanted to go back to the station." Despite the abuse Norwell's deportment was such that St Robert Marks, former Commissioner told the media, "Norwell Roberts has done more to promote good relations with the black community than anyone else." The abuse stopped after three years, when he was posted to CID on a Bank of America robbery job. Of his new posting Roberts said "It was a completely different bunch of blokes, a real breath of fresh air." Norwell made an excellent detective, and was promoted to sergeant in 1975. He has been commended on three occasions for 'professionalism, initiative and detective ability. In one celebrated case he solved a murder case in just six days, and secured conviction. In 1996, after 28 years of meritorious service, Detective Sergeant Norwell Roberts was awarded the Queens Police Medal! Norwell responded to the news by saying "Hearing that I was awarded the OPM was a lovely New Year present. The best I ever had. I have earned it so I shall wear it with pride." Two years later Norwell Roberts retired after 30 years dedicated exemplary service. At his farewell party Sir Paul Condon, who was also awarded the OPM, told him he still hoped to make use of his experience and advice after he left the Met. Detective Sergeant Norwell Roberts Rt, is currently being encouraged to form his own consultancy, as it is felt he could greatly assist statutory bodies and private sector companies that wish to eliminate racism in the work place, and engender harmonious relations there.