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Retirement: handing over the baton

Inspector Lornette Stokes has been a police officer for nearly 30 years and, as she approaches retirement, reflects on her successes and challenges during her time at Bedfordshire Police.

As you approach retirement, how do you feel about it?

Everybody says that they cannot wait to retire, myself included. However, as it got closer I had a sense of panic and dread and did consider not retiring. 

It was also made difficult because for the past three years I had been fortunate enough to lead a team of response officers who every day have the same enthusiasm as I did as a young officer, despite the dangers. 

Each day working alongside them is a pleasure.  However, I have now come to terms with the fact that it is time to hand the ‘baton’ onto the new guard and for me to support my colleagues from the side line.

                                   Lornette Stokes PC

Why did you want to become a police officer?

I’m not certain where it came from, but I recall when I was around six years old my grandmother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said a police officer. 

I remember her laughing and saying ‘don’t be silly’, something that I did not understand at the time. 

I now understand that it was 1970, where it was very unlikely that a black woman could be a cop. The innocence of youth. 

As I got older I saw that within Bedfordshire Police there were several black female officers, including PC Dahlia Hendrickson, who was a family friend. 

These incredible women inspired me not only to join but also to seek promotion; a first for a black woman within Bedfordshire Police.

 

What difficulties did you find as a black female officer?

I was very fortunate that most supervisors back in the early 1990s were ‘old school’; firm but fair, in that they did not treat me any differently than any of my colleagues. 

However, as the years went by I did suffer with instances of direct racism and what I believed to be conscious and unconscious bias, and struggled to gain support for promotion. On reflection I must have been very unusual indeed with my desire to gain promotion.

This led to me becoming a support officer for my local and national Black Police Associations and my experiences instilled a high sense of fairness and justice within me.

 

Is this what led to you taking your law degree?

In part, but also because I had applied for the Police Accelerated Promotion Scheme on a couple of occasions and had been unsuccessful. 

I decided that it was up to me to make my own luck. I was also slightly envious of my husband who had obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering in the 1980s.

                                   Lornette Stokes graduations

What was it like to study as a mature student, and as a mother and wife and with a full-time job?

I embarked on a five-year, part-time law degree in October 2013 aged 49, and the first couple of years were quite difficult.

However, I was fortunate enough to become friends with other students and also had the support of my husband who proof read every single essay that I wrote. 

As the years went on I became much more proficient and last year was delighted to achieve a Distinction on one of my modules and an overall 2:1 degree pass in law. 

On 21 September 2019 I graduated at the Barbican Centre in the City of London and can honestly say that the sense of pride I felt at my graduation was equal to the pride I felt at my police passing out parade in November 1990.

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