Police Constable Andy De Santis

"I want to show the friends that say “I couldn’t do your job” that they could, and they should."

Andy De Santis in police uniform, standing in a busy shopping area.

Andy De Santis is a Police Constable with the Metropolitan Police. We spoke to him about why he joined the police and how he’s helping break down barriers in his role as an LGBT+ Adviser and Blue Light Champion.  

Tell us a bit about your background 
I was born and bred in Brazil, but being in the UK for 14 years now, I’m finally at a point where I call myself a Londoner. Back in Brazil I worked mostly as an English as a Second Language teacher. Despite that, I never managed to get my brother to speak it well! I’m also half Italian, and although I had very little time with the Italian side of my family, they’ve always said how proud they are of me. This was really surprising as I was very concerned about their reaction to finding out my sexuality and career.

Before joining the police, I worked for Transport for London (TfL) in their customer journey department handling complaints and problem solving. On the side, I also volunteered as Comms Lead for the LGBT+ Staff Network and eventually Deputy Chair. During that same time, I was volunteering with an LGBT+ Organisation supporting LGBT+ people with substance abuse and poor mental health. These roles were really important for my foundation as an officer, being able to understand diplomatic solutions before aggressive negotiations. Ultimately, I joined the police because I had a real passion for helping people. That was and still is my motivation.    

What entry route did you apply through? 
I went through the ‘traditional’ entry route - the Initial Police Learning & Development Programme route. It's a two-year training programme delivered by the Met at Hendon Police College. It involved online assessments and “day one and two” stages. The first one was really challenging where I had to sit numerical and verbal reasoning exams. The rest of the day was filled with a roleplay scenario where you would need to use assessment skills and investigation to show your “problem solving” capacity. It was very interesting, and each step got me more excited.

How did you find the application process – was it what you expected? 
I must say – I didn’t think I’d make it. When I started the application, I was at my previous role and after not finding that I was satisfied in my career, I decided to give it a go. By this point I had met about four different people who said I’d make a good officer. The interesting thing in my journey, is that I was “picked” by officers. I never thought policing would be for me. So when I started the assessment, I wasn’t entirely serious or committed – but by the time I got my second online assessment with a positive result, my opinion changed. I must say that I was not ready the first time I applied. I was awfully concerned about the commitment I was about to make, so I worked for my previous employer for a further 20 months or so before deciding to go for it.   

How have you found your training overall? What parts have you enjoyed most? 
The best part for me was the trainers  some who I still hold very dear today. They taught us so many skills and were fundamental to my self-confidence. 

How do you feel you’re making a difference?
I belong to a lot of different communities, being part of running and sports groups, having worked as a volunteer with LGBT+ organisations, and having supported inclusion with my different employers, so a lot of people from those communities know me as an officer. I feel that some people in these communities would not necessarily seek out police for advice. Yet because I’m approachable and they know me, I’ve had a few colleagues seek me out for advice about engaging with police. A friend once said, and I never forget “I don’t trust police, but I trust you”. It’s a very bold statement, but if I’m somehow supporting them in that engagement it can only be a good thing. I have also been engaging with organisations that work with my community, helping to support them and I had a very welcoming response.

What do your friends and family think about your career choice? 
Some of my LGBT+ colleagues were a bit wary. I remember one who said “Good…I think police could do with more good natured people!”. My family were ecstatic about it, though I’d imagine my parents would’ve been both immensely proud but also a bit worried about some of the situations I might face if they were alive. 

How do you see your career in policing progressing? 
There is just so much to do in policing, I honestly don’t know. I had a Superintendent tell me it’s time to start looking at promotion. In my short career, I’ve had the opportunity to work in so many different teams. I worked as a Neighbourhood Officer, I went to the Response Team, I moved to Neighbourhood Tasking, moved into the Fugitive Unit, went back to the Response Team again and then back to Neighbourhood. I love all of it. It’s a job like no other – you get to meet and interact with so many different people.

What benefits do you think your background brings to your role? 
I think that my approach to certain situations are a little bit different, which is what helps in building trust. I remember during a chat with friends when we got talking about police and there was this general sense that “criminals should be treated as criminals”. Which is a very simple way to think when you don’t do this job – we usually arrive halfway through situations so I remember saying something like “But…that’s not my job. My job is to find out when someone did something they shouldn’t have, and bring them to court to face justice. I am not the one to enact it.” At Hendon, my staff officer once said “You have a really good nature about you – victims will really appreciate you”. So I was usually sent to deal with vulnerable victims. I knew then that I had to improve my confidence when dealing with criminals and I feel that I now achieved a happy medium. I can often, not always, speak to “troubled” individuals in such a way that they don’t see me as an enemy. 

Do you feel you’ve ever been treated differently by your colleagues because of your background? 
In a positive way, yes. I remember a long time ago, there was an incident involving people from my community. When I approached my Sergeant and said I could give some advice, he was very keen to listen to it. My approach when dealing with people from a community or experience I’m familiar with has always been very welcomed. I have also had interesting and challenging conversations about being LGBT+, an immigrant and Latino (LatinX) in policing that were not insulting, but forced me to challenge my own thinking on certain issues. My colleagues have also felt comfortable to discuss or even ask about aspects of my background with me, which has been helpful to them in understanding it. I feel that some people with a different background may not understand the fear that immigrants can have of the police, based on their experience of where they’re from originally. 

Why do you feel more diversity in the police service is important? 
Because diversity develops important conversations and allows for officers to learn from people different to their own. Because it allows for someone to feel supported if they have an officer that has walked in their shoes, and can understand what life is like under their skin. Because if we want a police service that reflects the communities it serves, those communities must be an integral part, and part of the solution to be sustainable, appreciated and used by everyone. Police in my experience, can depend and rely on community knowledge and support to be successful. 

What would you say are the main barriers that hold people from minority backgrounds back from applying to join the police? 
Perceptions of police either locally or geographical, the old image of a police officer as someone who is all muscle, no brain (sorry!), the perception from family and friends, the concern that you would not succeed or that it’s too much for you. In my experience, I held myself back a lot being terrified, but the job does change you. In time, I learned to love that chill in your stomach or the thrill you get when approaching a potentially dangerous situation and I found the ability to think on my feet.

What would you say to encourage others from minority backgrounds to join the police?
Better with you, worse without you. I think we can always hold back and keep our negative views of policing, but if we want change, we need to be willing to be part of it. Thinking back, I really earned my space working with communities from a genuine interest that came from outside the job. I work as an officer for my own service, but really my work is to remind people that there are good officers out there. My hope is that I can inspire some of them to follow in my footsteps. Ultimately, it’s to show the friends that say “I couldn’t do your job” that they could, and they should.

Interested in applying to the Metropolitan Police?

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has temporarily lifted the London Residency Criteria (LRC) - meaning those who want to join the MPS don't need to have lived or studied in London. You can find out more about becoming an MPS police officer on their website. 

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