Nusrit Mehtab reflects on Policing, Diversity & ‘Off the Beat’

In an exclusive interview with DESIblitz, Nusrit Mehtab dives deep into the complexities of modern policing with her memoir, ‘Off the Beat’.

Nusrit Mehtab reflects on Policing, Diversity & 'Off the Beat' - f

"I'll never forget the racism I encountered on the streets."

In the world of policing, few stories are as compelling and thought-provoking as that of Nusrit Mehtab.

Her new book, Off the Beat, delves deep into her ground-breaking career as one of the first Muslim women of Pakistani heritage to join the Metropolitan Police in the late 1980s.

In an era rife with racism, misogyny, and homophobia, Nusrit’s journey stands as a testament to resilience, tenacity, and a relentless pursuit of justice.

Our interview explores her motivations, the challenges she faced, her vision for a more inclusive future in law enforcement, and the enduring impact of her courageous contributions.

Her insights illuminate the path toward a more just and equitable police force for generations to come.

What motivated you to join the Metropolitan Police in the late 80s as a Muslim woman of Pakistani heritage, despite the racism, misogyny, and homophobia within the force at that time?

Nusrit Mehtab reflects on Policing, Diversity & 'Off the Beat'It was actually a twist of fate that landed me with the Met Police.

After leaving university I initially wanted to be an air hostess, but my career advisor told me I didn’t have the right body for it!

She pointed me in the direction of the Met recruitment campaign and the rest is history!

It was certainly a bold and unexpected step for a woman of colour to take.

Growing up, I never felt like the police were there to protect people like me, let alone that they came from my community.

It was my family that made me think it was something I could excel in.

I grew up listening to stories of my uncle who was superintendent of police in the Punjab District of Pakistan, members of my family fought in both World Wars, and some lost their lives.

Could you describe a moment in your career where you faced resistance, such as being ostracised by fellow officers or encountering barriers in promotion, and how you overcame it?

An issue I came up against constantly was having to fight to get promoted.

The promotion system in policing is incredibly unfair, and one where the toxicity of the force really shows itself.

Going for a promotion often felt like being on Gladiators, having to fight round after round.

For one particular promotion, my colleagues were actively blocking my progression.

Part of the process requires applicants to submit examples of our achievements which are then verified by our colleagues.

I had shown my examples to three of my superiors, all of who told me they were great and promised to verify them, only to find out further down the line that each of them had refused to confirm that my examples were true.

Luckily, I had their emails as proof that they’d initially agreed, and formally appealed.

I eventually got the promotion but it was a fight every step of the way. My tenacity kept me going.

When it comes down to it promotions are really about who you know, and who you can get to support you.

This prevents POC and WOC from progressing up the organisation – we just don’t get the support of the ‘old boys’ like our White colleagues did.

How did you maintain resilience and advocate for change amidst the racist and sexist behaviour you encountered?

Nusrit Mehtab reflects on Policing, Diversity & 'Off the Beat' (2)There were lots of points in my career where I felt close to leaving.

The constant fight to prove your worth and keep progressing despite hostility can leave you very battle-weary.

It took a huge amount of inner strength to keep going but my love of the job kept me going.

“I genuinely loved the work I was doing and the communities I was working with.”

Whether dealing with victims of domestic abuse, infiltrating organised crime rings or working in anti-terrorism, the job was truly fulfilling and worth doing.

The more the organisation tried to push me down, the more determined I was to move up the ranks.

I would keep saying to myself ‘Why should the racists and the misogynists win? They’re the problem, not me.’

In Off the Beat, you suggest solutions to address cultural issues within the force. Can you outline one of these solutions and explain its potential for transformation?

It seems so obvious but the biggest, most meaningful thing that policing needs to do is accept and acknowledge that there is institutional racism and misogyny within the force.

How can they fix a problem that they refuse to acknowledge in the first place?

There have been so many reviews, from the Macpherson report in 1999 to the Baroness Casey Review in 2023 and the Angiolini inquiry in 2024 that have found serious issues and made recommendations for positive change.

The answers are out there but no transformation can occur until the Met publicly accept that there’s a problem.

What qualities do you think are essential in police leadership to foster a more respectful environment, given your experience with how leadership within the Met can influence the culture of racism and misogyny?

Nusrit Mehtab reflects on Policing, Diversity & 'Off the Beat' (3)Great leaders in policing need to reinforce professional standards.

The culture starts with them so their ethics and values need to be clear from the off.

We need to see them come down hard on issues of racism and misogyny to set examples for all to see so that members of staff from marginalised communities know that their safety and interests are being protected.

During my time in the force, policing didn’t teach leadership until you reached the Chief Superintendent level, which is simply too late.

From the moment you start managing people you’re responsible for their wellbeing, so that’s when management training needs to start.

Now as a lecturer in policing law and criminology, what message do you hope to impart to your students about policing and community relations?

Accountability and transparency.

They need to take responsibility for their actions, which should be a given but often isn’t.

But most importantly they need to communicate with the communities they police.

The public needs to know that the police are there for them, and have their best interests at heart.

As the first Muslim woman of Pakistani heritage to become an undercover officer in the UK, can you describe what the role entailed and how it influenced your perspective on policing and diversity?

Nusrit Mehtab reflects on Policing, Diversity & 'Off the Beat' (4)As an undercover operative, I’ve worked on many challenging and dangerous operations.

I started working as a decoy in kerb crawling operations, posing as a sex worker on street corners in some of the toughest areas in London.

I then became an undercover cop, where I received a Commendation for my work, a cocaine bust in a club which eventually took down a much larger drug supply chain.

It was incredibly tense work, but the payoff after a successful sting operation was incredible.

I really loved my undercover work, but it really opened my eyes to the disproportionality in terms of gender.

Female operatives were so often only handed roles posing as girlfriends or wives, leaving high-profile work to the men.

I was also often sent out in a niqab and I’ll never forget the racism I encountered on the streets.

It left me wondering what it must be like for women that wear them every day.

What was the tipping point for your decision to leave the Met after 30 years, and what do you hope your departure will achieve for the force in the long term?

While I was in the Met, there were only about 10 Black or Asian officers at Superintendent rank and over half of them were under investigation.

Baroness Casey found in her review found that Black officers and staff were 81% more likely than their White counterparts to have internal misconduct allegations brought against them.

I saw first-hand how my colleagues’ who were under investigation had their lives turned upside down.

It felt like senior Black or Asian officers had targets on their backs and it was a very hostile environment to have to endure day in and day out.

“Over time my mental health began to really suffer, and I reached a point where it was too high a price to pay.”

Nusrit Mehtab’s Off the Beat is a call to action for systemic change within the Metropolitan Police and beyond.

Her story underscores the resilience required to break through entrenched barriers and the importance of acknowledging and addressing institutional biases.

As Nusrit continues to influence future generations of police officers through her work as a lecturer, her experiences and insights offer invaluable lessons on leadership, diversity, and the pursuit of justice.

Off the Beat is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of modern policing and the relentless drive needed to foster true equality within the force.

For further information about the book, click here.

Managing Editor Ravinder has a strong passion for fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. When she's not assisting the team, editing or writing, you'll find her scrolling through TikTok.

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