Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association - National Members Conference
06 November 2015
left to right – DCS Gilbert Houalla, Thames Valley Police; DCC Janette McCormick, Cheshire Police and Insp Louis Provart, National Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Police Association.
The first ever national conference for the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association (GRTPA) was hosted at The Police Federation of England & Wales’s (PFEW) headquarters in Leatherhead on Thursday 5 November 2015.
This was an opportunity for police officers associated with the GRT communities to hear from distinguished speakers and for them to have the chance to network with fellow police officers and staff.
Chairing the conference was GRTPA founder, Jim Davies. He opened the conference with an impassioned speech about the often conflicting pull he feels around being a proud and committed serving police officer and also his pride at being from a Gypsy community.
Jim Davies addressed the conference stating: “I care deeply about the police; but I want it to change how it treats Gyspy, Roma and Traveller communities.” He went on to recall a time when he was on patrol with a police officer colleague who stopped a potential suspect and then let him go saying, “sorry I stopped you, I thought you were a Traveller.”
Mr Davies spoke about his approach to dealing with these issues which he stated came very much from a position of care towards both the affected GRT communities and the police. He likened it to that of dealing with his own children. He explained, “The fact is you don’t want to chastise them, but yet you recognise the need for them to be put on the right path when they need to be, because you know it will be for the better in the longer term.”
Dave Bamber from PFEW, said: “The Police Federation of England & Wales was very proud to facilitate and support this, the first GRTPA Conference in the UK. The level of speakers reflected the quality and commitment that the GRTPA is able to bring, and their existence will hopefully go a long way in bringing about a real culture change within policing.”
Also speaking at the conference was Jeannette McCormick, the NPCC National Diversity Lead for Gypsy Roma and Travellers. She spoke about the need for change and how, by making a stand, this could positively influence other people’s behaviour. She also felt that as serving police officers, society expects them to perform at their best, yet felt this was very challenging for them if they felt unable to be honest about who they were in terms of their own background.
Other speakers included Yvonne MacNamara, Chief Executive Officer of the Traveller Movement which is a leading charity tackling issues that affect the lives of Gypsy, Roma and Travelling communities in the UK. They were also joined by Louis Provart, the Co-Chair from the National Gay Transgender Police Association who talked about how he deals with the challenges of being a member of a non-visible minority group working within the police force.
Marc Willers QC is one of the UK’s foremost barristers specialising in Gypsy Roma Traveller Law and was prominent in the high-profile Dale Farm case at Crays Hill, Essex and he talked about his work with the GRT communities. Similarly Gilbert Houalla of Thames Valley Police spoke of his work leading a recent Thames Valley Review of Policing GRT communities within his force.
Rainer Schultz, a European expert and Professor of Modern European History at Essex University and the Founding Editor of ‘Journal, Holocaust in History and Memory’ gave an engaging presentation on the historic persecution and holocaust of the Roma community during the second world war. This served as a fitting reminder to underpin the importance for the GRT communities to unite and stand firm against discrimination where it is encountered.
Anyone interested in joining the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association should email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the GRTPA website on www.grtpa.com and click on ‘Join Us’. Full membership is open to all serving Police Officers, Community Support Officers, Special Constables and all other Police Staff members, regardless of their rank and ethnicity.