Interview: A fair cop
Leroy Logan, retired police superintendent, talks to
Charissa King and Stephen Tomkins
Leroy Logan was a 25-year-old research scientist when his annual appraisal unexpectedly included the recommendation that he join the police. So began a 30-year calling that he never imagined would be easy. It caused hurt to his family, who had suffered at the hands of the police. And it set him up for years of discriminatory treatment within the Metropolitan police force, from racist slurs scrawled on his locker to losing out on promotion to someone who was known by those who appointed him to have lied in the interview. He remained committed to the belief that policing needs to engage with communities. Thanks to his courage, determination, ability and faith, he rose through the ranks and became a founder member of the Black Police Association.
Dr Logan is portrayed by John Boyega in Steve McQueen’s forthcoming BBC series Small Axe. His memoir, Closing Ranks, is published by SPCK in September.
Your parents were pretty strict about where you could go and whom you could play with. Do you think that that was necessary, looking back, to keep you out of danger, growing up in north London?
Absolutely. Parenting is such an important role in a child’s life – and consistent parenting. My sister and I knew my parents were strict for the right reasons. They were loving people that wanted to see us navigate some real pitfalls in society and set clear boundaries. So we were drilled: I had to collect my sister from school, go home, change, do chores, not just dash out and go and play with mates.
We were latchkey kids, like lots of children those days. It was a very positive community, but you just needed to understand your friends could get into problems. I had more respect for my parents than for my friends, which is quite the reverse of youngsters now. There’s no way I could stray off; you do what you’re told, to be a better person. Sometimes it was tiring – ‘All my friends have got this,’ or ‘They can do that.’ My dad used to say: ‘When you walk over that threshold into this house, you’re in Jamaica.’ And because I had been to Jamaica, I could say: ‘Okay, it’s like Star Trek: I get beamed in.’
What was your experience of the police before you joined up?
It wasn’t very good. Growing up under the sus [suspected person] law in the 60s and 70s was really tough. We feared the police. We used to call them the thought police, because they could arrest us on suspicion that we were about to commit an offence.
My father used to get stopped a lot by the police because he was a long-distance driver. He wasn’t bitter with it, but he was really disheartened. And because I love my dad, I don’t want him going through all of that. It really was painful to hear him talk about it. It was crazy to even think about joining the police knowing what my dad had gone through.
He hung up on you, didn’t he, when you first tried to talk about it?
I had secretly applied to join, and he had been beaten up by police at this time, and I just, I couldn’t… It was the first time in my life I just didn’t know what to do. I delayed and delayed until my hand was forced because officers went round to his house to check if I lived there (even though I’d already told them I’d moved). He couldn’t believe it. There was the fact that I was turning my back on science, because he loved the fact that I was a scientist. That really disappointed him: You’ve got so many opportunities and you’re joining the organisation that’s made my life absolute hell…
This is an extract from an interview published in the September 2020 edition of Reform