A BOLTON-born woman with Irish roots has been appointed as the new leader of the Black Police Association’s Merseyside branch.
Inspector Karen Dowden was announced as the successor of Chief Superintendent Rowley Moore, who is stepping down as chair after a four-year spell.
The 45-year-old mother of two, who cites herself as white British, black Jamaican, Irish and Welsh, boasts 23 years in the police force.
She told The Irish Post that learning of her Irish roots, which trace back 175 years to Armagh and Belfast was completely unexpected.
“In the last two or three years my mum started doing some research, we were quite surprised that there was an Irish link there,” she said. “The furthest Irish connection dates back to John Burton in 1841, who was a Traveller.”
Inspector Dowden, whose biological father is black Jamaican, explained that her mixed background often raises questions about her heritage.
“There’s always some comments about how people look and judging people based on their colour, their ethnicity, their race, their religion, that type of thing.
“That certainly did prompt some queries as well about what my heritage is.
“Some comments often are that I’ve been on the sunbed or just been on holiday and not actually recognise what my heritage is.
“I haven’t got any links to my biological father, so I’ve grown up in a house with a white mother.
All my family is very white. So as a result, you stand out a little bit I suppose, having a bit of colour in a white family and a white area.”
The Black Police Association aims to support people from different ethnic minority backgrounds and underrepresented communities by recruiting and retaining these individuals into the police force.
Inspector Dowden believes that her mixed background will give her an advantage tackling racial prejudices both inside and outside of the police force in her new role.
“As a result of that, you notice that people will say things that aren’t necessarily appropriate, not racist necessarily, but people don’t realise that you are black or you are mixed race, and feel more comfortable to share sometimes some prejudice or discrimination.”
Inspector Dowden currently works as a neighbourhood inspector for Bootle, Crosby and Litherland in Sefton.
During her career she has worked in the Criminal Investigation Department, as a patrol officer and a domestic violence investigator.
She was previously the deputy chair of Merseyside’s Black Police Association.