When It All Started
PTSD, My Story
It was a clear, dry morning on the 4th of November, 2002. If it wasn’t for the temperature, it could have been a summer's morning. I had been on duty from 7 AM. It was the morning that an operation should bring an ongoing problem in the Asian area of Burnley Lancashire to a conclusion, if not at least bring the situation under control.
A gang of boys from the Bengali community had been causing trouble since the eldest were about twelve years old; these boys were now aged between eighteen and twenty. In addition, there were other younger boys starting at about fourteen years old. At first, the gang had caused a nuisance in the community. As time went on, they had become involved in other crimes, eventually moving onto more serious crime including Street Robberies and drug offences. I could go into reasons why in my opinion they had got into the position they were in, but it is diverting from what I set out to write here.
The Asian community in Burnley is very diverse, and the different ethnic groups tended to live in their own sub-community within the Asian community. Patanes, Bengali, Sunnis, and Hindus made up these groups. These groups were classified via the location their families originated from and the religious divides. Although the majority of people were Muslims, they could be subdivided into smaller groups/branches of the Muslim faith. This alone causes problems because of internal problems between various groups, each with their own community leaders/representatives. When this was mixed with many other problems and, sadly I have to say poor relations with police ,in the past we had a problem that was not going to be easy to tackle.
During my time in the community I had made contact with people from many different areas of the community. I was not concerned whether I was dealing with a community leader or someone living in the area. Because of the distrust of the police, I had set about with the idea that if they got to know me as Nic, they would think, Nic is okay. Nic is a cop and he is okay, so there may be other cops who are okay. This worked to a point, but I couldn’t influence the cops in the way I could the community. I could go into length discussing the problem with the Asian/police community relations and racism in the police, but that is not what this is about. What I would say is many members of the community were right in what they were saying, racism in the police at Burnley Lancashire was still a problem. The Stephen Lawrence inquiry didn’t address the problem. Racism was still a problem. Personally, I found the community welcoming and decided I needed to do what I could to address the issue of the gangs in the area.
The first problem was getting people to talk. They were scared of reprisals. The community said if you arrest them, they are released in a few hours and then brag to their mates about the police not being able to put a case together against them. This caused people to not have faith in the police or the system. In the end, I had a group of people who were willing to give statements. The condition was that we wouldn’t arrest anyone until we could arrest all the ring leaders at once and as many gang members as possible.
On the fourth of November, 2002, it was to be an early morning operation to arrest all the people involved at the same time. At the beginning, we found that there were not enough officers to run the operation as was initially planned, and the officer who should have been working with me was sent to cover in custody.
This was what I joined the police for: to arrest people and make a difference through what I was doing, and I loved it, there is nothing better than locking up criminals. This operation started going very smoothly once went got on the streets. All the people wanted except for one were locked up; only one was at large. I was going around speaking to the community, telling them what I was doing and trying to find the person who had slipped through the net.
The Asian community still spreads news by speaking to people on the streets; you could get information spread through the community quicker than any other method by using the network that already existed. This works both for and against the police, when you didn’t want something spread through the community it could very easily, but we couldn’t have it both ways.
It was still early in the morning and I was in the general store at the bottom of the main street in the area. I had been telling the owner of the shore and some other people what was going on and who I was looking for. The store owner's brother left the store and within a few minutes walked into the shop and waved me to one side. He told me the lad was at the bottom of the street behind the store. He was with two other young lads and wearing a coloured jumper. We had got him, he wasn’t going to get away this time. Whilst in the shop, I had found out he was hiding in the house whilst the police attended earlier in the morning.
I was wearing my body armour, my belt with handcuffs, baton and cs spray over; this was my heavy weight hi vis waterproof jacket. I left the shop and went to approach the lad who was aged twenty, but was only short and would pass for being a lot younger. The two lads with him I knew well and I had never had a hint of trouble with them. The wanted lad was stood with his back to a low fence surrounding a play area. I walked in a slight curve walking up the street and the towards the three lads. This meant that I would be approaching the three of them so the two other lads would be behind the offender. I had done this hundreds of times, often in situations I would have assessed it to be more dangerous than what I was walking into. Even so, you are always wary because anything can happen.
As I approached, the three of them were laughing and joking, pointing in my direction; that was nothing new. The Asian boys often tried being funny, poking fun at cops. I started talking to the boys and went to make the arrest. The wanted lad started to struggle. The next thing I remember is being hit on the back of the head. I literally saw stars and my vision closed in. I felt more and more blows. All I could think about was not going down. I felt that if I went down it would be the end, I would’t be getting up. I was not going down, this wasn’t going to be the end. The wanted lad turned to run and for some reason I thought, chase him. If I chased him they would think they had hurt me.
It worked; the other two followed him. I didn’t get far, and I collapsed. Game over.
As I type this I can’t bring back the fine details, but every time I close my eyes and sleep or have a flashback, it is so real. I can only really remember the thoughts of self-preservation. I owe a lot to some of the lads that trained the self defense. I had drilled some situations so much I took it for granted, but it worked and I am still here. A workman who saw the incident said they saw what happened and me run. They then said in true Lancashire fashion, “He just dropped like a sack of spuds.”
The community were great after the attack; they were disgusted at what had happened and wanted justice. I am still very proud of the Asian community in Burnley and their reaction to what happened. They could have easily closed ranks and not got involved. They didn’t; instead they stood together to do everything they could. Some members of the community visited my home afterwards and they said they had been asked why they hadn’t closed ranks. Their reaction was one of surprise. They just said “because you are part of our community.”
When it is written on paper, it seems so simple, but those few actions along with a few others brought on PTSD, and this changed my life. But looking back, I would do it again. PTSD may change your life, but what I have learned is don’t live your life and look back with regret. Look forward to the future. I want to try and control the effects of the PTSD, not let the PTSD control the effects.