LEROY LOGAN’S autobiography, Closing Ranks: My Life as a Cop, has been 10 years in the making. But with the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, the issue of the relationship black communities have with the police making headlines around the world, and his story being told as part of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series, it seems right on time.
“Good things take time as they say,” he told The Voice.
While the retired Metropolitan Police superintendent remains one of the most highly decorated and recognisable black policemen in British history, it didn’t always appear that he was destined for a career in the force.
His journey to become a police officer followed several years working in science and research, which could have led him into medicine, and more poignantly, a horrific encounter his father had with police in which the senior Logan was badly beaten. His father later successfully sued the Met over the incident.
“Policing wasn’t on my radar at all,” he said. Despite positive encounters with police officers through his work at The Royal Free Hospital, Logan’s initial thoughts when his boss at the hospital asked if he’d thought about becoming a policeman were, “Do I look like a racist thug?” The response was generated from his negative experiences. After taking some time to contemplate the career change, Logan decided he would join the Met.
His faith is a central element of his story. It’s what he credits his resolve to remain as a policeman against the odds in a hostile environment.
“It wasn’t just a job, it was a vocation, it was like I was commissioned to do something, and I would do it to the best of my ability, and I suppose do it until the Lord takes me type thing,” he said.
A founding member and former chairman of the black police association Logan’s career is full of examples of his ambition to change policing from the inside.
Following the murder of 10-year-old Damilola Taylor in November 2000, Logan was involved in the operational side of the investigation. On observing the reluctance black residents had in opening up to white officers, he had an idea.
“I brought in a cadre of black officers to assist with the house to house inquiries because the white officers were going to the houses that overlooked where Damilola was stabbed in Peckham and people weren’t even opening their doors,” Logan said. “I got a team together, a lot of them from the Black Police Association, and they had an instant response people within the households were opening up their doors, allowing the officers to go in, actually telling them what they saw, giving a good profile of how to identify the witnesses and the suspects which eventually contributed to securing the convictions.”
“Even in retirement I’m still working to address the inequalities and injustices”
He refers to it as an example of diversity in action.
“Let me people use their life skills, their culture, their experience…to build bridges with the community,” he said.
His 30 years of service in the police has given him tremendous insight into the challenges black officers face within the profession. He highlights disproportionalities black and minority ethnic officers face in terms of disciplinary action and the unequal obstacles they often experience when it comes to rising through the ranks.
“I’d like to think that the more reflective the organisation, the more fit it is for the 21st century,” he said. “The Met police and other police services have to realise there is an inextricable link in how you nurture your black and minority ethnic staff so that you’re better equipped to deal with the needs of a diverse community.”
Since retiring in 2013, Logan has remained committed to using his skills, experience and expertise to improve the relationship the police have with black communities.
“Even in retirement I’m still working to address the inequalities and injustices and not just in policing but other agencies to make sustainable and irreversible improvements,” he said.
One of the ways he demonstrates this dedication to addressing inequalities within the criminal justice system is through his work with Voyage Youth, a social justice charity that aims to empower marginalised black young people.
“I know the importance of giving back because we’re only as strong as the weakest and only as fast as the slowest,” he said.
While Logan wants things to improve so his grandchildren’s generation don’t have to experience the same things his parents’, his and even his children’s generation have with the police, he argues things have gone backward since the Macpherson report.
“The whole look and feel of policing reminds me of a pre-Lord Macpherson inquiry sense of policing because…all the recommendations that came out of it improved policing. Unfortunately, a lot of that’s been eroded and it’s gone back to a pre-Macpherson era,” Logan said.
He added: “I would have never thought in 2020 that relationships between the police and the black community would have been as bad as this. I think it’s the worst it’s been for decades.”
“I was so impressed when I heard John Boyega wanted to play me”
In Closing Ranks: My Life as a Cop, Logan tells his story in his own words. His life will also get the small screen treatment in Steve McQueen’s Red, White and Blue, one of five films in the director’s Small Axe anthology series. John Boyega will play Logan.
“When I finally heard it was Steve McQueen and I had my first meeting with him in late 2016, I was amazed,” Logan said.
“I was so impressed when I heard John Boyega wanted to play me. I think he really wanted to work with Steve McQueen and he liked the character that he was playing. And I couldn’t think of anything better,” Logan said.
He added: “It’s timely, it’s beyond my wildest dreams, and again it reinforces the book. I always say though that the film is a taster, but the book is the main course.”
In Closing Ranks: My Life as a Cop by Leroy Logan is out now