The Metropolitan Police is commemorating 50 years since PC Karpal Kaur Sandhu joined its ranks as the first female police officer, a trailblazer at a time when a career with the police force was not really seen as a choice for young girls within the community.
Police Constable (PC) Sandhu served the in London between 1971 and 1973 and is being celebrated as a “true pioneer” for police forces across the UK as this week marks the 50th anniversary of her recruitment.
Romy Sandhu, her daughter, said in a tribute: “I’m so proud of my mother, and her legacy as the UK’s first female police officer from an Asian and Sikh background.
“It’s wonderful that 50 years on she is remembered, and is an inspiration to generations of new female police officers joining the Met.”
The National Sikh Police Association UK joined forces with the Met Police Sikh Association for a special virtual event in memory of PC Sandhu.
Met Police Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said: “PC Karpal Kaur Sandhu was a true pioneer and ahead of her time. I have no doubt that her decision to join the Met Police in 1971 was a brave one and she would have faced considerable challenges along the way.
“As Britain's and the Met’s first Asian female officer, Karpal paved the way for so many others who have gone into policing since 1971. Fifty years to the day after PC Sandhu joined the Met, I am pleased that we are able to remember her life, her career and the legacy she has left policing."
PC Sandhu was born to a family in Zanzibar, east Africa, in 1943 and came to the UK in 1962, where she got a job as a nurse at Chase Farm Hospital. She joined the Met in 1971 at the age of 27, where she served at Hornsey police station before moving to Leyton in east London.
At a time when there would have only been about 700 female officers in the Met, she was both the first female Sikh and female South Asian police officer in the UK.
Ravjeet Gupta, Chair of the Metropolitan Police Sikh Association, said: “Today, together with representatives from the Met’s Sikh Association, Met police officers and staff and the wider Sikh community, we remember Karpal’s special contribution to policing, as the UK’s first female Asian and Sikh police officer.
“Karpal was an invaluable ambassador for the Met who helped break down barriers with London's communities and will always be remembered for being a trailblazer of her time.”
Writing in a report at the time, PC Sandhu’s Chief Superintendent said that she was “proving invaluable with our dealings with the immigrant population and she is also assisting other divisions in this work and also in teaching police officers Asian dialects". He added that she was “energetic, intelligent and conscientious” and enjoyed playing hockey and driving.
PC Sandhu, 30, passed away in “tragic circumstances” in the line of duty in November 1973.