Our Testimonials

Anonymous   20/03/2015

“Control room calls up, a shoplifting in progress, 2 female shoplifters, any units free?  Silence.  Repeat, shoplifting in progress, any units free to deal, shop staff believe they are Travellers.  Suddenly 4 units are available and all sorts of people offering ‘back up’ for two unnamed/unconfirmed women!”

Anonymous 20/03/2015

“Whilst out on patrol, control room call up, some people refusing to leave a pub, staff want assistance anti-social behaviour, any unit free to deal?  Silence.  Control room calls again, staff have asked them to leave as they are local Gypsies, any unit free to deal?.  All of a sudden 2 units are available and will attend and eject them!  At no point does anyone ask why?  What have they done?  Their crime appears to be they are in a pub and the landlord does not like Gypsies – are we living in 1950’s Alabama?!”

Martin C. 21/03/2015

I have 2 daughters, a Wife, a 4 door family saloon, mortgage, pension, hereditary pattern baldness, war medals and a warrant card. O and I’m a Romany Gypsy.  Despite my apparent “Mondeo Man” appearance I was born and raised in a trailer, living life on the wrong side of evictions from stopping sights. My family might have settled from time to time but we always kept our way of life intact. Despite my parents wish that I would get a good education I was not interested in academic studies so left school with a G in Geography….  My next choice was manual labor, benefits or the military. So one frosty morning I took a train to Liverpool and signed my life away on the dotted line for Her Majesty.

The month I left the military I visited my grandparents who had stopped at a site, taking with me my prized medals along with the union flag I had brought in a charity raffle held for a friend who died in service. Leaving my Grandfathers site I was stopped by the police, they searched my car and upon finding the medal asked me “Who have you stolen this from”. My reply “Her Majesty” reflected the attitude of the officers. Needless to say they appeared rather embarrassed when they found my military ID card and compared that to my name engraved on the side of the medal.   Ironic as within less than a week I was about to swop that military ID card for a warrant card.

The examples of racism towards GRT people and communities during my time in the police have been frequent, offensive and unchallenged, much to my shame. After 8 years of silence I decided to join another constabulary and be proactive in promoting my heritage. I can honestly say that the people who are aware I am a Gypsy have made no derogatory remarks in front of me. Some have even begun to ask questions about my culture which often begins a debate about the issues GRT and non GRT have with each other. I am involved in projects to improve the recruitment and retention of GRT officers, change certain practices that can discriminate against members of GRT communities and educate non GRT officers in the rich tapestry of cultures represented by GRT.

Anonymous 23/03/2015

I have been so inspired by the testimonials here. I’d like to tell my own story. I grew up in a trailer and lived most of my early life on site. My father and mother worked hard to provide for us and make sure we got an education. We spent the school terms static and travelled during the holidays. They had little or no contact with the police. Although were they still working today, and given the paranoia that seems to exist around Gypsies and Travellers trying to earn a living the traditional way, I fear this would not be the case now. Yet neither of them has ever done a thing wrong in their lives

After a collection of unsuitable jobs I joined the police on the recommendation of a gorgia friend. I have to say it is wonderful job, has developed me as a person, provided security for my family and over the years has given me the chance to meet some wonderful people, both inside and outside of the police. I am very proud to be a police officer as are my family.

What I’m not proud of though is the prejudice and discrimination towards Gypsies and Travellers which sometimes seems to seep out of every pore of my chosen profession. I’m even less  proud of the fact I’ve done little in the past to challenge this,  but then  by the same token, neither has the profession itself.  Until now it has looked on with a degree of apathy and disdain that would cause public outrage were it any other ethnic group in question, and it continues to allow and encourage practices and procedures from which it is difficult to draw any conclusion other than – it regards Gypsies  and Travellers  as wholly  criminal.   Like previous contributors here, I know of no other people who qualify for a police response purely on grounds of their ethnicity.   Like others also, comments directed at me personally have been rare – but the offensive remarks about my race in general, are too numerous to count and range from casual racism to the frightening. To be with 30 plus other police officers on public order training, have your instructor announce to the class “the only good Gypsy is a dead Gypsy and witness the uproar of laughter of your colleagues is truly an intimidating experience”

But I am hopeful for the future. Things appear to be changing even if it is slowly. The formation of the GRTPA has been a much needed breath of fresh air. It has made it acceptable to talk about Gypsies and Travellers in a positive sense with colleagues showing genuine interest and desire to learn about us.   It has made less frequent those stomach churning moments at work, when you know the subject is going to get around to Gypsies and Travellers and you sit there waiting for the offensive remarks to start. It has ended the isolation of being a Gypsy in the police.

Anonymous 01/04/2015

A Traveller funeral took place in our town. Due to the large number of mourners there was a Police presence. A fight was started by a person who was not invited and not a mourner.

Due to the large numbers of mourners more officers were deployed, which is perfectly correct, the situation was controlled from then onwards, through the funeral itself and to the wake.  Yet some ‘over zealous’ colleagues decided it was the opportunity to keep tabs on persons known to them, despite the fact it was 100% clear why they were in the area.

Some Travellers had stopped in a local car park whilst they attended the wake, it was night time so the car park was empty.  One of my colleagues wanted to continually patrol the car park that evening.  I remonstrated with my colleague that no incident was taking place in the car park, no reports of any incident, the fight earlier had occurred in another location and 8 hours previously, the Travellers were at the wake, so for what reason should we continually patrol the car park?  The reply I got was ‘But they’re Travellers’.  At that point I angrily informed my colleague they can patrol alone as I didn’t care for their company.

 Anonymous 23/04/2015

I attended a report of anti-social behaviour, passed to me as an urgent attendance by the control room.  A local resident claimed his neighbours were harassing him and they were ‘Travellers’ and he was frightened.  Upon attendance I immediately recognised both the caller and the neighbours.  The caller claimed the neighbours were moving their wheelie bin close to his driveway in an obvious (obvious to him) attempt to upset or intimidate.

I asked the caller why he described his neighbours as Travellers, when both he and I knew for a fact they weren’t Travellers, he had lived next door to them for 30 years and was well aware they were a third generation family from the local town?  The response I got was “If I say they’re Travellers you lot turn up quicker and the council will do something”

I told our caller that he ought to be ashamed of himself, the caller himself was of Asian background, I pointed out it really wasn’t that long ago that some people would claim all criminals were black or Asian to elicit a more rapid response from like minded people in the Police Force. 

I am not from a GRT background, but I know prejudice when I see and hear it.  

 Angela C. 30/04/2015

I grew up believing that my culture was an issue, the reason you were treated badly or differently and decided that hiding it would be better. This secrecy, was hard, people would notice your long dark hair the green eyes, yellow tinted skin and often ask “are you gypsy” or they would call you “pikey” all terms hard to take but I didn’t defend, didn’t argue as it was easier than saying anything at all. As time went on I was accepted for the work I did. I realised not everyone felt the same and I could say something, I became a campaigner for people, pushed the boundaries and challenged people on their opinions & prejudice views. I got educated and employed in a job that was about helping others and I excelled.

I am now a control room operator in the Police service. I sit daily taking calls from the people, some hard some easy, some different but different is not bad. A lot of the time it is negative, you smile, you empathise, you resolve and feel good you helped someone today. Sometimes the calls take you back to your culture, they use the terms “blooming Travellers”, “frigging Gypsies” or “thieving Pikeys” and you feel a heat build up inside, not anger but disappointment that with all the equality being pushed in our faces there are still prejudice views & people out there. However, you breath in, tell them you will take the information but that they need to be aware that the terms they are using are not acceptable without telling who you are and why it is unacceptable. But a lot of the time they say “well you know what I mean” they don’t apologise for the term just for saying it to you and you want to say “no I don’t actually” but you can’t this would be unprofessional and not acceptable. At the end of the call you take a moment or two and look round who can you talk to no one really as you feel like the only Gypsy in the room and you quite possibly are. You can try and speak to a manager but what can they do, they can’t call this person back and say you upset our staff member because they are Gypsy or can they? You can be sign posted to counselling services but I don’t have a problem they do, they need to change not me, what will counselling do it will have me look at my feelings, look at why I felt like that, tell me next time pass the call on or have a break, will this resolve the issues? No it will change nothing. What is needed is education, for people to know that they could be talking to a person from that culture and to realise that not everyone is bad just because they are different. If I had a call from a person saying their neighbour was being racist to them I would class that as a hate incident so in my view a person saying this to me on the phone even though they have no idea I am from that culture this too should be hate related and dealt with in that manner but it is not. It is perfectly acceptable to have a go at someone on the phone and have deniability because you were unaware of their culture but I say this is not acceptable today not when so much in relation to equality issues is out there on social media, in the papers word of mouth or on the TV. Only we as people can make the changes, education is the key and if we can educate people to realise I am just a human being like they are, I bleed red blood, I cry real tears, I hurt just like them then maybe, just maybe that next call will be better & I can smile at the end of it instead of feeling alone.

Anonymous 12/05/2015

It’s Christmas, as part of an anti-theft initiative we are tasked with patrolling and giving extra attention to a local shopping centre, especially as they have suffered a lot of shoplifting.  This makes perfect sense.

One afternoon in early December the Control Room comes over the radio stating that an Officer has spotted a local Traveller family, known for shoplifting, entering one of the stores in the shopping centre.  The Officer calls for assistance.  I attend and discover a half a dozen people in the store, 1 person is known to Police for shoplifting, the others were not known but in the same group, yes the known person was also a Traveller from a local site.  Other than this, there was nothing else to see.  The “Traveller group” went into the store, bought several hundred pounds worth of goods, paid in full and left.  In fact the store did very well out of their custom.

So I asked my colleague why did they request additional Officer presence at the store, somehow it didn’t seem necessary?  My colleague’s response was that a member of staff at the store had approached them outside expressing concern that these ‘Travellers’, most of whom they had never seen before, were on a shoplifting mission.  As we were on an anti-theft initiative, my colleague’s instinct was to immediately feel there was a potential shoplifting threat and to ask from more Officers to attend (there were two at the location before I arrived and only one way in and out of the store).

Now I’d worked with my colleague for years and I know for a fact they did not have a prejudiced bone in their body.  Yet they are effectively stereotyping and seeing travellers as one homogenous crime group – why? Because this is the kind of language they had been exposed to in Police meetings, briefings, in documents and used casually around the station.  Terms like ‘Traveller Crime’, ‘Traveller Shoplifters’, ‘crime from the Traveller fraternity’ ‘Romanian Gypsy beggars’ were and are used regularly.  Therefore when working on an anti-theft initiative and a member of staff at a store expresses their own stereotypes and prejudice, the Officer’s instinct is to think Traveller = criminal,  and call for support.  None of the criteria for reasonable grounds of suspicion were met, not one.

There are CSE gangs convicted in recent years made up of  members from African and Asian backgrounds.  Would Police briefings, documents and language use terms such as ‘Black grooming gang’, ‘Asian paedophile gang’ ‘Muslim Groomers’.  No they wouldn’t  and quite rightly, why? 1) Because such terms are misleading, inflammatory and an unfair smear on the entire community and 2)  because the government themselves have made it clear people’s ethnicity or religion is irrelevant, a criminal is a criminal.  Yet in my experience this is not the case with Travellers and Gypsies, who are identified first by race or ethnicity, then as criminals, and hardly ever as victims or witnesses.

 Anonymous 03/06/2015

It was with great interest that I read about the recent victory in court against the JD Wetherspoons Pub company for refusal in 2011 to allow Travellers, friends and associates, admittance to one of their pubs in London.

This is of course by no means new and is probably the most common discrimination.  In a previous life I worked in several pubs, both for small independent owners and large chains.  In every single one, and I mean every single one, I was told not to serve ‘Travellers or Gypsies’ sometimes worded more crudely and offensively.

Not being from a GRT background, and having lived in the middle of cities all my life, I didn’t know what was meant by a ‘Traveller’ and I had this image of a hippie with ribbons in their hair singing ‘eve of destruction’.  So when I heard this the first time I asked my boss how I would know who is a Traveller and who isn’t?  His response was “you know when you see them, they’re scruffy and Irish”.  Although I was a young man at the time and keen to do well, I’d experienced this kind of discrimination myself as my ethnicity is not indigenous British,  so I nodded and decided to ignore him.

As sure as the sun rises in the east one day a Traveller family came into the pub and order drinks and sat down.  They were polite and good natured and I had no issue with them.  My boss came into the bar and hit the roof.  He demanded to know why I’d served them as he’d told me they don’t allow ‘gypos’.   My response was how am I supposed to know they are Travellers? They are not wearing signs around their necks, as far as I was concerned they are a group of Irish people?!  Again my boss insisted you ‘know’ by looking at them.  I started to argue that I didn’t have physic powers and therefore we’ll have to refuse to serve all people with Irish accents, which I pointed out is contrary to the Race Relations Act.  Needless to say my boss swore at me and walked off, I didn’t last much longer in that pub.  From then onward whenever I was told not to serve Travellers or gypsies I just ignored the instruction, as far as I was concerned all customers were welcome. If any customers misbehaved they were asked to leave, whoever they were.  I am very pleased there is now some legal redress against this prejudice and discriminatory behaviour.

For the record, over many years I lost count of the number of incidents involving students, football supporters and binge drinkers, none of whom were groups of Travellers.

 Jim K. 08/09/2015

I was in my local Supermarket, on a rainy Saturday morning, going through the usual ritual of packing the goods at the checkout and wondering how much all this would cost me, when I noticed the woman serving me at the checkout seemed distracted and kept looking behind her.  I realised after a few seconds she was staring at another customer at the self-service checkout.  At one point she was neglecting my shopping so I asked if there was a problem?  The checkout woman replied “I’m staring at that Gypsy woman at the self-service, she’s trying to steal, they tried it on at another store the other day”.   At this point I looked at my wife, who had a very worried expression on her face because she knows me well and she could see I was close to erupting and walking out without our shopping.  Out of respect for my wife’s feelings I stayed silent and carried on packing.   The Checkout woman then called over a colleague and told him “watch the Gypsy woman she’s trying to steal”, so the colleague walked right over to the self service checkout and started staring at the female customer.  My blood was boiling at this point, my wife begged me not to say anything or walk out.  The next comment out of the mouth of the checkout woman was “look she’s staring back at me now”, to which I snapped, “well you’re staring at her what do you expect?”, her reply was “she knows she’s been rumbled”.  At this point I paid my bill, didn’t even look at the checkout woman, took my shopping and left boiling mad. 

 Let us be clear, no crime had been committed, no security personnel were involved, this was all the prejudice and discrimination of one employee, using other employees to do their dirty work.  I have reported this to a 3rd party hate crime victim support provider and they will take it up with the Supermarket’s HQ.  I was informed by a serving Police Officer this was a hate crime and I was well within my rights to report it to the Police.

 I am not from a GRT background, nor is my wife, but I have been witness to this kind of behaviour (and worse) aimed at GRT peoples for many years.  When I was growing up, in London, Kent and Oxfordshire until quite recently I experienced, and was witnesses to, a huge amount of open prejudice, racists remarks, stereotyping, discrimination and bigotry against Jews, Asians, Blacks, Gays and Gypsies.  Over the last 30 years there has been a noticeable reduction in the acceptance of society toward this behaviour, and a strengthening of laws and their application to tackle and support all of the groups I mentioned EXCEPT GRT.  It has become the last bastion of acceptable prejudice, stereotype and discrimination and it is prevalent in all strands of society, I hear and see it on a regular basis.  GRT people have the least amount of political power or representation to combat such attitudes and behaviour, so it continues unabated.  That’s why I’d had enough and I joined the GRTPA to show solidarity with my brother and sisters from the GRT communities.

 The next time I hear such racial slurs and discrimination from a member of staff in a shop I shall shout in a loud voice “I am a Gypsy, perhaps you’d like to search my bag!”.

 Jim K. 09/12/2015

I was reading The Equality and Human Rights Commission report “Inequalities Experienced by Gypsy and Traveller Communities”, dated 2009, finding much of it fascinating and sadly true and very much relevant to today – indeed as an outside observer I would say matters are worse now in terms of treatment of members of the GRT community than they were in 2009.  It reminded me of this episode.   

I was eating in a local restaurant on the estate where I was a Neighbourhood Officer, happily enjoying my bacon sandwich whilst taking a break from foot patrol, when I was interrupted by the rather anxious Restaurant Manager.  She was worried because a group of ‘Travellers’ had been in the restaurant, 6 people comprising men, women and children.  She was very worried about their behaviour, so I asked whatever did she mean?  Well the children were loud and ran around a bit, there was a disagreement over the bill and one meal had to be returned as it was over cooked.

Anything else?  No, other than she wanted to ban them if they returned and wanted my support as she was going to use the reason (excuse) of Anti-Social Behaviour on their last visit.  I asked a very simple question, do any other families behave in this way?  Oh yes of course she replied, some kids are very unruly and some people argue all the time over the bill.  And I asked, do you ban these people from returning and label their conduct as Anti-Social Behaviour?  No of course not.  And I asked, do you get in drunk students or businessmen who are raucous, maybe use a little foul language or tell dirty jokes?  Yes of course they do, and so I enquired further, are they banned for committing acts of Anti-Social Behaviour?  No of course not, not even if other customers are offended!

So the inevitable question I was leading up to, why ban these people?  The reply, because they are travellers, it’s different for them, you don’t know what they’ll do next, it upsets other customers when you have travellers in.  My response to the Manager was how does she know they were travellers?  The reply, you can tell by the way they look and speak.  So she wanted to know could she ban them and would I support her.  I let her know the only example of Anti-Social Behaviour I had heard were her own comments.  I then left and didn’t return again.

In recent times there have been a number of racist and discriminatory attacks on Muslims, a number of politicians, press and commentators have run reports to highlight this and to confront it, and quite rightly in my view because they are fellow human beings.  But no such concerted effort is being made for GRT peoples who face the same acts of racism, prejudice and discrimination on a daily basis up and down this country.  That’s why we must continue to act, highlight these experiences and bring pressure on those in power to enforce the same laws and social policies for all our communities.