Black History Month: Sislin Fay Allen, The First Black Policewoman

Black History Month: Sislin Fay Allen, The First Black Policewoman

Nowadays it is not unusual to see members of the police force from a wide range of backgrounds – all proud to be British and protecting their fellow Brits. However, not so long ago, a mere forty-seven years ago in fact, Sislin Fay Allen became the first black policewoman in the Metropolitan police force.

In late 1968, Sislin Fay Allen was a trained nurse working at Croydon’s Queens Hospital when she saw an advert in a local newspaper for male and female police officers.
Feeling like a change in careers, the mum-of-two applied. Within a few weeks, Sislin surprised everyone by making it to the interview stage. Not long after, she, took her exams, passed her medical, sealing her place in UK history. She was stationed at Croydon’s Fell Road police station“On the selection day there were so many people there, the hall was filled with the young men. There were ten women and I was the only Black person,” She told the Black History Month website.“I can remember one friend said, `Oh they wouldn’t accept you, they don’t accept black people in the force’, and so I said `Well my dear, I’ve got news for you’ and I showed her the letter. The first day on the beat in Croydon was daunting, but it wasn’t too bad because I went out with an officer. People were curious to see a black woman there in uniform walking up and down, but I had no problem at all, not even from the public. On the day I joined I nearly broke a leg trying to run away from reporters. I realised then that I was a history maker. But I didn’t set out to make history; I just wanted a change of direction.”

Attitudes towards the police force from black and Asian communities have never been wholly positive, however, Sislin reveals it wasn’t the force or the white public who gave her a hard time – it was her own community.

“Many of us, as you well know, have some sort of perception of the police that isn’t all that good. I was asked how I could leave nursing and join the police force. It was like joining something degrading.”

“After a while the stares soon passed,” she adds. “My colleagues were very accepting – in Croydon really and truly. I didn’t have any problems there. I just did my work and after about a year I was posted to Scotland Yard.”

Sislin worked in the Yard’s Missing Persons Bureau for a while before she was transferred to Norbury police station.

 

In 1972 Sislin left the Metropolitan Police because of family commitments, returning to her husband’s birth country of Jamaica with their children. She joined the Jamaican police force and received a welcoming letter from the then Prime Minister, Michael Manley.

Sislin later returned to the UK with her family and settled in south London.

adapted from Black History Month, “Sislin Faye Allen, Britain’s First Black Policewoman.”

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