NETGALLEY BOOK REVIEW: Black and Blue by Parm Sandhu


4/5 stars

An important nuance that is often left out of discussions about police brutality and bias is how those within the force can be affected as well. Black and Blue, the upcoming memoir by Parm Sandhu, the highest-ranking Asian woman to ever serve in the Met Police, acts as a crucial reminder of this.

Sandhu has a compelling and often shocking life story–growing up in Birmingham in a strict Sikh family, she was forced into an arranged marriage at 16 and struggled to balance the expectations of her culture and her desire to pursue a career in public service in England. She entered the Met Police in the 1990s and encountered racism and prejudice from the get-go, as extreme as patrol officers refusing to go on duty with her and in a stunning opening, abandoning her while on a night patrol.

Sandhu remained resolute and worked in some of the highest-profile events of the past few decades in London, including the London Olympics, Tottenham Riots, and the murder of Lee Rigby. Fighting against ongoing discrimination based on her race and gender, she often found dealing with her superiors and colleagues as difficult as the criminals she worked to bring to justice. All the while, she faces tokenisation and being forced to “defend” her race to her colleagues, especially as she works on taskforces working to crack down on forced marriages and FGM in the Capital.

Sandhu pulls no punches in her criticism of the Met, and how it works to uphold systemic racism in its ranks. When her retirement arrives, it becomes clear Sandhu is not only ready to pursue a leisurely life but also horribly burnt out after thirty years of constantly being doubted. The book also functions as a cruel and crucial reminder of how ingrained racism has been in British culture for generations, and how, especially in fields such as policing, casual racism and misogyny are more-or-less expected, with those who push back being dismissed as “oversensitive”. Sandhu only entered the Met in 1990–and was still having racial slurs directed her way well into the 2010s.

This memoir is an especially good starting point for anyone wanting a more informed perspective on policing and how it affects communities of colour, and especially for anyone who thinks BLM discussions of policing are less relevant to Britain as police officers aren’t armed here.

Thanks to NetGalley and W.F. Howes for the review copy in exchange for my honest review. BLACK AND BLUE will be out 7 July 2021 in the UK.

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