Kevin Maxwell: ‘My MBE is an acknowledgment of police racism’

Exclusive: “It is a message that our experiences, as Black people, matter,” said Kevin Maxwell, a former Met Police officer-turned-whistleblower.

Nadine White@nadine_writes
Monday 14 June 2021 12:16
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<p>Kevin Maxwell</p>

Kevin Maxwell

Former Metropolitan Police officer Kevin Maxwell has said his MBE, awarded in acknowledgement of his memoir detailing racism in the force, is a significant step in the struggle towards equality in Britain.

The author, a Black gay man, was among those named on the Queen’s Honours List on Friday for services to diversity through literature following his best-selling book Forced Out.

In 2012, Mr Maxwell won a discrimination case against Scotland Yard after an employment tribunal found he had been subjected to direct discrimination, harassment and victimisation during his ten years of working within the force. He left following the hearing’s outcome.

“I reflected on whether I should accept the award and whether it would undermine the real issues I have raised, and continue to, about the police and the systemic racism that persists in the force to this day,” the 43-year-old told The Independent.

“For me, the honour is an acknowledgement by the state of the struggles faced by Black people in the UK. I got it for fighting racism; that’s significant.

“But it’s bigger than me, it’s for all those whose voices have gone unheard and remain so. It says, we’re here, we exist. Our experiences count and shape us.”

He added: “I accepted the MBE because the positives outweighed the negatives; it is a message that our experiences, as Black people, matter.”

When Mr Maxwell, 43, was initially notified of this news by the UK Government Cabinet Office, he thought it was spam.

“Never in a million years did I think someone like me, particularly a working-class boy from Liverpool would receive such an honour and more so for what I had done,” he said.

“I literally took on the establishment through the courts advocating for change within the police and wider society and wrote a book detailing my awful experiences; so to then be awarded an MBE is something else.”

Many would-be recipients have previously turned down the Queen’s honours because of their association with the empire and its history of slavery, including poet Benjamin Zephaniah, who rejected an OBE in 2003.

Other people of colour to reject honours include spoken word artist George The Poet, Liverpool’s first black footballer Howard Gayle and co-founder of UK Black Pride Lady Phyll.

“I’m aware that wonderful people have turned down the award because of Britain’s racist past with colonialism and Empire - and I’m someone who would not knock down another Black person when they share their reasons for example not accepting honours; I respect this,” Mr Maxwell said.

“For me, it was a personal decision with a wider perspective because acknowledgement by the state of the hurt and pain caused to me by the police will now be a part of Britain’s official history.”

He added: “We do not yet live in an equal world; selfishly, I think my mum would be smiling about this honour.”

The former police officer told The Independent that The Met has not apologised for the “pain and hurt they caused” him.

“Over forty acts of discrimination were committed against me because of who and what I am - a Black gay man - but this MBE is surely an acknowledgement by the establishment of the wrongdoing against me,” he said.

“As I wrote in my book about my time in the police: I was not and am not any of the awful things the police said.”

The Met Police issued a press release celebrating news that six of its officers - past and present - have been named in the Honours list.

However Mr Maxwell’s award was not featured by his former force.

Mr Maxwell was exposed to racist and homophobic remarks from other officers, senior staff and line managers within the Met Police, a tribunal heard.

Meanwhile, almost 100 honours recipients have backed a campaign calling for the Government to replace “Empire” with “Excellence” to sever the system’s link to Britain’s colonial past.

Public figures from charities and civil society, including activist Helen Pankhurst and Shelter chief executive Polly Neate, who have previously been recognised are calling for part of the system to be renamed so that it becomes an “inclusive source of recognition, celebration and patriotism”.

They would like to see the wording changed for the Order of the British Empire - which covers the ranks of DBE, KBE, CBE, OBE, and MBE - to ‘Order of British Excellence’.

This year’s Honours list is the most ethnically diverse to date, with one in seven recipients from an ethnic minority background.

This comes after the Royal Family were hit with numerous concerns around racism and discrimination within the household following Meghan and Harry’s explosive interview with US talk-show host Oprah Winfrey in March.

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