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Former Kent Chief Constable Michael Fuller reveals what life was really like for a black policeman

A childhood spent watching TV shows such as Dixon of Dock Green and Softly, Softly were what first prompted the young Michael Fuller to consider a career in the police force.

But when he actually became a police officer, the man who was to become Chief Constable of Kent - and retire the highest ranked black police officer in the country - found life in the force was very different from that portrayed on TV.

Throughout his years of service, he had to endure racist taunts and prejudice – some deliberate, much unwitting – to an astonishing degree.

Former Kent Police Chief Constable Michael Fuller. Picture: Grant Falvey
Former Kent Police Chief Constable Michael Fuller. Picture: Grant Falvey

His approach was always to draw a breath, taking time as he called it “to process” the insult and determine the best way to react.

Usually that involved working extra hard or taking yet another exam to prove that he was not only as good - but better - than his racist colleagues.

But after years of grinning along with the “banter”, Mr Fuller has finally laid bare his experiences in his autobiography Kill The Black One First.

It will be difficult reading for many white people who will be astounded at the constant instances of racial abuse.

Michael Fuller alongside former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams
Michael Fuller alongside former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams

It will probably be difficult reading for many black people too because the other side of the coin was the unexpected hostility Mr Fuller encountered from the black community, too many of whom regarded him as a traitor.

The title of the book comes from a comment screamed by a black protester as Mr Fuller stood – the sole black face – in a line of 30 police officers heavily out-numbered by a baying mob during the Brixton Race Riots.

In a candid account, Mr Fuller reveals for the first time how he was brought up in a care home.

He acknowledges he owes a huge debt to the house matron, whom he called Auntie Margaret, and to whom he dedicates his book.

It charts his struggle to balance his very British upbringing with his Jamaican heritage and his confession of how, at times, he wasn’t sure that he belonged anywhere.

Michael Fuller was the only black face in his Hendon Police Training School graduation class of 1978
Michael Fuller was the only black face in his Hendon Police Training School graduation class of 1978
The young Michael at Alderbrook Primary School in London in 1964
The young Michael at Alderbrook Primary School in London in 1964
Michael with his care home matron Auntie Margaret
Michael with his care home matron Auntie Margaret
A brilliant long distance runner, there came a stage where Michael Fuller had to choose between a career as an athlete or a police officer
A brilliant long distance runner, there came a stage where Michael Fuller had to choose between a career as an athlete or a police officer

It is a story of a determination to succeed, whether it be winning the school cross-country race or gaining an MBA and qualifying as a barrister.

Eventually, as he rose through the ranks, he was able to introduce changes to policing techniques that helped all sides of the community.

He installed CCTV into police custody cells to counter accusations of police brutality and tackled Yardie drug-dealers.

He set up Operation Trident to fight gun crime in London and advised the Met on how to deal with the aftermath of the Macpherson inquiry into the force’s failure to properly investigate the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

As Kent Chief Constable, Michael Fuller goes on patrol with one of his officers, PC Bob Fursley, in Sheerness
As Kent Chief Constable, Michael Fuller goes on patrol with one of his officers, PC Bob Fursley, in Sheerness
As Chief Constable of Kent, Michael Fuller meets the late Edwin Boorman, the then chairman of what is now KM Media Group
As Chief Constable of Kent, Michael Fuller meets the late Edwin Boorman, the then chairman of what is now KM Media Group

The changes he suggested helped to change the Met’s approach to race crime.

His move to Kent was a "totally different" experience, he said. "Right from the start I felt very welcomed and supported.

"I enjoyed my time in Kent immensely and worked with some great officers."

Kill The Black One First by Michael Fuller is published on Thursday by Bonnier Books and available in hardback from tomorrow for £16.99.

To find out more about where the book is on sale and also to contact the author, visit

http://www.killtheblackonefirst.com/

Mr Fuller will be signing copies of the book in Waterstones in Rose Lane, Canterbury, on Thursday, March 28, at 6.30pm.


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