Category: testimonial, BAME, black history month, BAME Inclusion, Staff Testimonial, BAME Diversity, BAME Network, black, Bame recruitment, The Metropolitan Police
Joining the Metropolitan Police Service in 2007, Charles De Gale initially worked in the occupational health department, before moving to his current role as a physical training instructor.
In this role, Charles works to support firearms officers in completing their physical fitness tests, creating bespoke training programmes and providing guidance on improving their mental and physical wellbeing. Through his work, he plays an essential role in keeping officers fit and healthy to police London.
What inspired you to join the Met?
I joined the Met approximately 13 years ago. Before then I worked as a football coordinator in Wandsworth and though I loved the job, I felt I needed a bit more security and a career with the prospect of advancement. I heard that the Met were looking to increase the number of police staff so I did a year long evening class in computer literacy and later applied for a role in the Met’s Occupational Health Department, providing clerical and admin support to the occupational health nurses, advisors and counsellors.
Although I initially joined the Met for long-term job security it’s great to know that my role is important in providing support to frontline officers, and that ultimately I am contributing towards protecting the people of London. It is incredibly rewarding and something I am very proud of.
Can you describe your day-to-day role?
I spent the first three to four years of my Met career providing admin support to the occupational health advisors and counsellors, until applying for my current role as a Physical Training Instructor. It was actually my manager at the time who recommended me for the role, knowing my background in fitness and that this had always been a career I was passionate about.
As a physical training instructor, my day to day role involves taking officers through the multi stage shuttle run, otherwise known as the ‘Bleep Test’. Officers in a firearms role have to complete the 15-metre bleep test to meet the requirements for their role and I support them to achieve this, as well as providing any officers who fail the test with a training programme. This includes general guidance, support and motivation, as well as offering advice on basic nutrition and training. For any officers who are physically not able to take the Bleep Test, I support them in their Alternative Fitness Test.
From time to time I also fitness test potential recruits which provides me with a great insight on the fitness levels of today’s society.
Have you had to overcome any significant barriers?
Before the lockdown, my role also involved leading gym induction classes and circuit training classes, helping officers and staff with their health, fitness and mental wellbeing through these. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints these classes no longer take place. However, despite this I am determined to perform my role to the best of my ability and support every officer and member of staff who walks through the gym door because I know that I play an important role in getting them fit to protect London.
What do you find the most enjoyable aspect of your role?
I find the most enjoyable aspect of my role is supporting those officers who struggle with their fitness test. It is such a wonderful feeling seeing them through their training journey, supporting them through any obstacles, before eventually passing.
I recently worked with an officer to improve her fitness levels and overall health generally. Our first step was to have a consultation to set achievable goals, along with a training plan, and for the next month we worked through this together. Each week I could see the improvements she was making - not just in terms of her overall fitness levels, but her positive mentality and attitude. Finally, when the day came for her to officially take the test, she smashed it! Being a part of that process and helping to instil the determination and confidence in someone is so rewarding. It is also a powerful message for all officers and staff around the importance of including an element of health and fitness in your everyday life.
Have you had any key moments or experiences throughout your time at the Met?
An experience I will never forget was during the London 7/7 attacks. At the time, I was working as part of the clinical team for the Met’s occupational health department and following the terror attacks, it was our department’s job to operate the 24-hour emergency counselling line. This line had been set up as a support network for officers who had been part of the response team and operated for weeks following the terror attacks. I think it demonstrated what an amazing organisation we really are, I am proud to say that in a small way I played a part in that support mechanism.
It has been just over three years but I am now in remission from cancer. Being a physical trainer, healthy and fit, it really does show that cancer does not discriminate. As a black man, I found it difficult to open up and speak about my experiences, so I made a promise while going through treatment to give something back to all the doctors and nurses who had helped to save my life. I set my goal to run a hat trick of London Marathons while raising money for my chosen charity Children with Cancer UK. I ran the first in 2018, then 2019, and then this year under unusual circumstances due to the pandemic I completed the 40th Virtual London Marathon in the pouring rain around Battersea Park in a bell costume! To date, across all three marathons, I have raised close to £10,000!
However, what has really stood out to me during this time is the support I have had from the Met community. I became a member of the Met cancer support group, which helped me tremendously throughout the experience. As well as their help, the sheer generosity of my colleagues and wider Met family has been amazing. I have organised charity circuits where officers and staff donate towards my marathon efforts and we’ve raised hundreds of pounds! To me, this is testament that we are not defined by the colour of our skin but by our humanity. My story shows people have genuine compassion and kindness, and how much of this is encompassed within the Metropolitan Police community and with this being Black History Month, I am proud to share my story in demonstration of this ethos.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Though I am a firm believer that the colour of one’s skin should not define us, Black History Month is an opportunity for us to celebrate black culture and the achievements of black people worldwide. I am a proud individual, proud of my past, my achievements and the obstacles I have had to overcome. Personally, I hope by telling my story and sharing my experiences, it will in a small way inspire others.
What would you say to someone considering a career in the Met?
Working for the Met has played a massive part in my life; in part it has helped to make me the person I am today. There are so many opportunities and different career pathways to progress in, and ultimately wherever they lead you, your team will always help you to achieve your full potential. So my advice would be to anyone considering a career, if you are a driven and ambitious individual, then go for it, it will be the start of a brilliant career!
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