Britain’s first black policewoman has been honoured with a lifetime achievement award at a ceremony celebrating black, Asian and minority ethnic female officers.
Sislin Fay Allen, 82, joined the Metropolitan Police in 1968, paving the way for other women of colour.
Speaking from her home in Jamaica, Mrs Allen said she feels “honoured and humbled” after being awarded the accolade, following a Sky News report marking 50 years since she first made history.
In a virtual ceremony held by the College of Policing, National Police Chiefs’ Council and the National Black Police Association, Mrs Allen was recognised for “her desire to have a career in policing despite the discrimination she suffered”.
Mrs Allen said: “I wasn’t expecting anything like this. I am really humbled by it all. I want to thank everyone in policing who has given me this.
“It has been such a long time but it is better to be late than ever. I remain happy that I did what I did.”
The home secretary has praised Mrs Allen’s legacy in policing.
“I think it’s right that we do celebrate,” said Priti Patel.
“We celebrate the legacy of those who have contributed so much to policing – first black woman in policing is a huge, huge landmark and that is something we want to build upon.
“I absolutely believe we should not just celebrate but commemorate her legacy.”
Mrs Allen was presented with her award by Inspector Andy George, president of the National Black Police Association, and Assistant Chief Constable Kerrin Wilson.
Mr George said Mrs Allen is someone who has made a major impact on the world of policing.
He said: “Sislin is a trailblazer. It is wrong she has been overlooked for such a long time and she is a role model who now needs to be recognised wider.”
Mr George said black officer numbers for both men and women remain a concern and is calling for urgent reforms, including building bridges of trust and accountability between police and their communities.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get diversity in policing right. We need to reset the dial and start aligning our workforce with the communities we serve,” he said.
“Police leaders need to wake up and admit the problems, by denying the problems they are working to the detriment to ethnic minority communities.
“You can never fix a problem if you can’t admit it is happening. The legacy issues need to be fixed, but if we deny experiences of the community then we will not change perceptions.”
Police forces have faced renewed calls about their record on addressing race within their ranks since hundreds of thousands of anti-racism protesters took to the streets across the UK earlier this year.
Mrs Allen’s daughter Lorna said her mother’s achievements have captured the hearts of the nation because of the focus on recognising diversity.
“It is a great honour. We are overwhelmed. I wish my dad was here to see this moment,” she said.
“For her to be recognised in her lifetime as well is truly wonderful, because not a lot of people tend to live to see moments like this.”
The National Black Police Association, which was established in response to the 1999 Macpherson inquiry, has announced an annual award in Mrs Allen’s name will now be established to honour black women in policing.