Ex-Met Police officer advises trans people to ‘turn and walk away’ if they see cops in the street

Natalie Ashton

A trans former Metropolitan Police officer has spoken about her experience of transitioning while working at Scotland Yard, revealing the “tragic” harassment she endured from colleagues.

Former police sergeant Natalie Ashton had worked as a Met Police officer for two decades before deciding to resign because of the mistreatment she endured from senior officers.

She told PinkNews of the relentless harassment she and her trans colleagues received, including hearing an officer call a trans suspect a “t****y c***t”, as well as being the focus misogynistic and transphobic remarks herself.

The systemic discrimination Natalie says she faced caused her to resign in 2022, five years after coming out – having reached the conclusion that the force was beyond saving.

Speaking out became “impossible” for Natalie, with those criticising the force being met with “far less sympathy than those who were spoken out against.”

“I experienced this first-hand as I tried to push back and it was impossible,” she told PinkNews.

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She had some explicit advice for trans Londoners, warning: “If you see a Metropolitan Police officer, turn around and quickly walk away. I know how they will view you and I know a great many of them will mean you harm.”

Natalie became motivated to talk about her experience following the publication of Baroness Casey’s independent review of the force earlier this year.

Not only did the report find the Met to be “institutionally” discriminatory, but a survey also found that 14 per cent of lesbian, gay or bisexual officers experience homophobia every week.

A Met Police spokesperson told PinkNews it recognises the “number of high-profile failings in recent years” that have “damaged trust and confidence in policing among members of the LGBT+ community”.

“The Met has zero tolerance for any form of discriminatory or hateful behaviour, including transphobia, and is determined to root out the corrupting minority of individuals,” it added.

Trans police officer Natalie was routinely discriminated against

While the Baroness Casey review didn’t factor in transphobia, Natalie said the report’s findings almost perfectly mirrored her own experience of discrimination.

“Even from the get-go, I’d say that woman [Baroness Casey] deserves a medal, because I’ve never seen anyone hit the nail on the head the way she did.

“She really did, especially regarding the Department of Professional Standards and how they handle complaints because – oh boy – not my favourite.”

Natalie publically came out as trans to her Met Police colleagues in 2014, choosing to go on a two-year career break after starting her medical transition.

Following her return, the difference in treatment was staggering, she said – from transphobic remarks, such as deadnaming, to systemic discrimination that saw her placed in administrative jobs below her pay grade.

She described being “locked away” in an internal role, which she claimed was an attempt to keep her out of the public eye, and allegedly being blocked from promotion.

“I went back to work in 2016,” she explained. “I was taken out of work from Tottenham and placed in Colindale because that was closer to where I lived at the time. I didn’t know the borough at all.

“I’ve never seen that happen before, so I kicked up a stink and they basically said that they’d switch me to another internal role, so I asked, ‘Is it Colindale policy that I’m not to be seen by the public?'”

The complaint would be the first of many for Natalie, almost all of which fell on deaf ears.

“With the discipline service, it is impossible to punch upwards, and dear God did I try… At that point, there was essentially no chance to progress my career.

“This is the thing: when they start going after you, it attacks your sense of self-worth and it was horrendous.”

Met Police surround protestors.
The Met Police were described as institutionally discriminatory in Baroness Casey’s review. (Getty)

Aside from the lack of action in dealing with complaints, those who spoke up would often be mistreated even more, Natalie told PinkNews.

“In my case, they said, ‘If she calls up, don’t answer the radio.’ The radio is your lifeline. If you’re on the floor getting your face smashed in, you hit that button to let them know that you need help.”

She went on to say that colleagues would rarely even speak to her.

“For the first two months after I came back, no member of the senior leadership team – so, the chief inspector and above – said a word to me. After that, I got motivated to try to ensure what happened to me, what was going on, didn’t happen to anyone else.

“I was two decades in and used to things, but if you take a new probationer and you put them in that environment, there’s a tragedy in the making.”

‘A major case of gaslighting’

Over the course of nearly eight months, Natalie tried to push for change within the Met by writing a 15,000-word policy document detailing everything that had happened to her.

But the document was stonewalled and eventually “disappeared [in]to the ether”.

“Looking back, it seems like a major case of gaslighting,” Natalie says.

“On the one hand you had departments saying, ‘Come and do an attachment with us to work on this’, and the next you have them saying they would consider it in January, then later, and over six months nothing happened.”

The Met Police told PinkNews that it was currently “writing a specific policy in collaboration with trans and gender diverse colleagues,” but did not state exactly who was working on the document.

“The Met has a trans and non-binary peer support network that works with the senior leaders to highlight and problem solve issues when identified,” a spokesperson said.

The ordeal and the realisation that little could be done to stop the institutional negligence culminated in Natalie resigning from the Met and eventually leaving policing altogether.

She claimed that, as punishment for her complaints and eventual resignation, she was essentially blacklisted from talking to any of her former colleagues, becoming what she described as “persona non grata.”

“The catch was that I spoke out,” she said. “Putting in a grievance in the police is a career death sentence. That’s something that Baroness Casey called out, this culture of denial.

“It’s wilful blindness… You’ll never fix anything by doing that. You’ve got to own the failures to improve things.

“Don’t take my word for it, [look at] the news on any day ending in a ‘y’ and there’s a better-than-average chance you’re going to see horrendous things about the Metropolitan Police.”

Since then, Natalie has refused to set foot in London. She said that the police, especially the Met, is the perfect environment for those choosing to discriminate against minorities in “relative safety.”

“You are left with an environment where those who chose to discriminate can do so with almost complete impunity,” she added.

In response to the accusations of complacency in addressing these issues, the Met said it was making a number of improvements, including in recruitment and leadership training.

“We believe that celebrating all our LGBT+ colleagues, by highlighting their achievements and recognising their lived experiences, is very important,” the spokesperson added.

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