Spotlight on Karen Geddes: Triumphs, Challenges, and Inspiring Insights

February 9, 2024
Posted in articles
February 9, 2024 Oliver Gee

In a world where representation matters, Karen Geddes, a professional and development coach at Police Now, stands tall, embodying the spirit of resilience, determination, and change. With more than three decades in policing under her belt, her journey offers invaluable insights into the challenges and triumphs faced by women of colour in traditionally male-dominated fields.

“Be yourself. Do not assimilate. Embrace your individuality”

“My inspiration was my mum,” Geddes begins, talking about the impact her mother had on her upbringing. “She had a lot of trauma in her life and she could have folded and given up, but she never did. We never wanted for anything. She worked hard. She instilled values into us and that was the mentality, that strength and character to fight for what is right.” This foundation of strength and perseverance laid by her mother became the cornerstone of Geddes’s journey.

Navigating the professional world often requires guidance and Geddes’s path was no different. “I struggled with mentorship to start with,” she admits of the challenges she faced in her early career. Trust, a fundamental aspect of any relationship, was a hurdle for her. But life has a way of introducing the right people at the right time. Enter Sir David Thompson, the former Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, and Chief Inspector Christopher Grandison, who both became beacons of trust and guidance for Geddes. “They were people I could be honest and authentic with. Integrity, trust, and openness are important to me,” she says. Life rarely follows a straight path and Geddes’s journey in policing was no exception. “Family is critical to me,” she says of the critical role they played during challenging times. “There were times when I could have given up on policing. I described my journey as a roller coaster. The thing that kept me going was my family.”

She recalls significant turning points in her career, such as the Stephen Lawrence case and the murder of George Floyd. These events were not just headlines for Geddes; they reshaped her perspective. “They started to change my thinking and focus around what policing means to me. At those points, I became more consciously aware that I was a Black female in a non-Black organization, and that I had an opportunity to make a difference.”

For many, a rank or title might be a symbol of achievement. But for Geddes, it was the uniform that held a special place. “The rank is not the important thing for me,” she says. “The thing that I tell people I miss most is the uniform.” Walking down the streets and being recognized and embraced by her community was a testament to her impact. However, her achievements, including attaining the rank of superintendent in West Midlands Police, also came with a realization. “While I should have celebrated my success, for me it was also a moment of sadness. I think in 2021 that I was the first [woman to reach that rank] and now, in 2023, I remain the first.”

Geddes’s heritage, a blend of Wolverhampton and Jamaica, has deeply influenced her worldview. “It was in Jamaica that I first became aware that I was Black.” Her experiences in both places have shaped her perspective on diversity, inclusion, and representation. When asked about her heritage’s contribution to her success, she states, with pride, “We are survivors. We’re resilient.”

Today, she is associated with Police Now, which has a “mission to transform communities, reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, and increase the public’s confidence in the police service”, and founded The Thin Black Line. “I wanted to have something when I left policing that gave me an opportunity to continue to champion Black engagement within policing.” For the young women of colour aiming to carve their path, her advice is: “Be yourself. Do not assimilate. Embrace your individuality.” Geddes believes in the power of humility, active listening, and the art of avoiding defensiveness.

Interview by Rasheed Bailey

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,