How Franstine made history

Franstine Jones , who has made history as the first woman president of the National Black Police Ass

Franstine Jones , who has made history as the first woman president of the National Black Police Association. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Hard work and a sense of justice have taken Franstine Jones to the top of her profession. Sheena Grant reports


- Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

How does a girl born to immigrant parents in Ipswich rise from supermarket cashier to become the first woman president in the history of an influential national police organisation?

The answer, it seems, after spending time with the personable, down-to-earth and engaging Franstine Jones, is hard work, commitment and, of course, talent.

Franstine, who has worked in Suffolk Police’s diversity unit since 2008, was elected president of the National Black Police Association (NBPA) in October, the first woman and first civilian to hold the role in the organisation’s history.

Among the men she beat to the job were senior officers from large urban forces. So little was she expecting to be elected that she actually left the room as the results were being announced.

“I was in the loo,” she says. “When I came back everyone was clapping. I am committed to making sure the NBPA represents our members and that we also represent black and minority communities with regards to policing. I want the police service to be the sort of service that young people from black and minority communities wouldn’t hesitate to consider as a career, because it is a good career.”

Franstine’s own story should serve as an inspiration for the sort of wider change she wants to see.

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The former Stoke High pupil was a single mother in her 20s, holding down several jobs as she struggled to support her children and study for qualifications at Suffolk College.

“My mum and dad came from the West Indies and worked really hard so we never wanted for anything,” she says. “I think I learned from their work ethic.”

After leaving school Franstine trained as a nursery nurse. But by the time she qualified, 1980s Britain was in recession and she struggled to find work. So she took a full-time job in Tesco, working up the ranks from cashier to supervisor.

Her son was born in 1987, followed by a daughter a couple of years later but, unfortunately, her marriage didn’t last.

Realising she needed a job with more flexible hours she went to an employment agency, where staff advised her to think about nursing, customer service or personnel. “I didn’t even know what personnel was,” she laughs. “They told me it was all about staff welfare. I was interested in that.”

Franstine enrolled on a three-year Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development course. While studying she worked in fashion chains, cafes and even did an Avon round. “I had to pay my bills and provide for my children,” she says. “I was determined my situation as a single mum wasn’t going to get the better of me.”

Once qualified, Franstine worked as a personnel administrator, eventually moving to the Benefits Agency and later Suffolk County Council. Along the way she had picked up expertise in equality and diversity management.

Eventually she started her own business, delivering training programmes on race, gender and disability, and worked as interim director of the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality for a while. After five years running her own business she started to feel the need for change. When the job with Suffolk Police came up she knew it was for her. The role involves helping the force meet its diversity commitments and aspirations. She advises officers about things they need to consider when engaging with different communities and is at the forefront of efforts to recruit a more diverse force that reflects the community it polices.

Everything is considered. Custody suites even have floor arrows pointing east so muslim detainees can pray.

Franstine’s own children are grown up now and her latest grandchild is due to be born any day. She’s very excited at the prospect. Luckily, years of experience mean she’s expert at juggling her many commitments.

“I’m proud of my family and proud to be Ipswich born and bred,” she says. “I started in one place and without moving far ended up somewhere else entirely. I feel honoured and humbled to be the first woman president of the NBPA.”