“Her contribution to policing in the United Kingdom cannot be underestimated. The courage that trailblazers like her showed in joining the police service allowed others to follow a career in policing,” UK’s National Black Police Association (NBPA) president, Andy George, said in a statement in tribute to Sislin Fay Allen.
Allen, who passed away in her native Jamaica on July 5 at the age of 83, broke racial barriers in 1968 when she became the first Black British policewoman. Prior to joining the Metropolitan Police at the age of 29, Allen was employed as a nurse at Croydon’s Queens Hospital, according to BBC.
The former law enforcement officer recalled she decided to change careers and take a shot at joining the British police force after she saw a recruitment advert while on a lunch break. “I was on my lunch break and during that time I was going through the paper. I saw this advert and they were recruiting police officers,” Allen told Sky Sports in an interview at her residence in Jamaica last year.
“So, I looked at it and thought, ‘why not?’ I cut the advert out and put it in my pocket and said, ‘when I have time, I’ll fill it out’. After I finished work around seven, I went home filled it out and posted it off. I thought nothing of it.”
In an effort to avoid any recruitment setbacks with regards to her race, Allen said she indicated she was Black while filling out forms she had received after she was asked to come over for an interview.
“They posted some forms for me to fill out and return. I did that and at the end, I penned at the bottom of it that I was a black woman. I didn’t want that if I had succeeded and when they saw me, they didn’t know I was black,” she explained.
“So, I specifically wrote there, that I was Black.”
Following her recruitment, Allen was posted to the Metropolitan Police’s Croydon division before moving to the Missing Persons Bureau. However, Allen recalled that though people commended her for her historical feat, she also faced racial discrimination from other White officers as well as the public. Nevertheless, she said she was not moved.
“I know the prejudices were there, but it didn’t deter me. I mean, they [the public] didn’t want a black police officer and they felt they needed to make this known,” she recalled. “Some of them were livid. I got quite a lot of letters, as far as I know it came through Scotland Yard [the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police]. There were some very nice letters but there were some horrible ones.”
She added: “I was told but I’ve never seen them because they were never given to me. When I asked, ‘why these letters were held back?’ I was told that they thought that if I saw the letters, I wouldn’t go on with the job and that I would leave.”
Allen left the Metropolitan Police after four years of service and moved back to her native Jamaica where she also took up a job as a police officer.
She was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the National Black Police Association in 2020. George also said the association made a decision to name an award in her honor in their efforts to “showcase her contribution to policing and to ensure a long-lasting legacy is created in her name to recognize fellow trailblazers in policing today.”