My name is Gan Thayanithy, I'm a Detective Inspector and I work for the Counter Terrorism Network in Northamptonshire Police. Our main job is to prevent terrorism and extremism in all its forms.
I grew up in Birmingham. I ended up going to university and from university just made my mind up I was going to join the police. I really wanted to do something everyday that would have a positive impact on people. So, an inner-city school kid from Birmingham ends up on the south coast in Portsmouth on the streets of Hampshire as a police officer with a big hat on wandering around arresting people. I did that for five years and then transferred to Northamptonshire to be closer to family. In that time in Northamptonshire, I have had every opportunity to do everything that I wanted. I'll come into work; I will brief myself on the intelligence that's come in overnight. Sometimes we're contacted by partners in the security services with threat information about our local area, sometimes police officers or police staff have been out and identify threat and risk that they report to us, sometimes colleagues in partner agencies like the NHS, schools, they report threat information to us and then we make an assessment of that threat and decide what we're going to do. Is it somebody that we need to investigate, is it somebody actually that we can just go knock on the door and say 'look, we've received this information about you, why don't you talk to us and tell us about it'.
My first arrest was, I was on my first day as a policeman in Eastly police station with my tutor and literally somebody ran past the front of the car with armfuls of shopping. So, I didn't think, I just got out the car and legged it after them and got them and my tutor told me off because I'd jumped out of a moving car. I chased him down the road, grabbed him and when he turned round, I realised he was just a little kid. I just took from it that everybody is just a person, and everybody has got something going on and people do stuff for a reason. So, this lad that I caught he was from a home where he wasn't really looked after and wasn't really loved and he absconded from school and just stole things, primarily to get attention, and it just made me realise that not every criminal was a really bad person.
My family and friends when I joined the police were really surprised at what I wanted to do. When I was growing up, I kept it to myself that I wanted to join the military or join the police and when I finally plucked up the courage to say to people that's what I want to do they were surprised but when they saw how happy I was they immediately thought you know this is the right job for me. I explained roughly what I did every day, said that it was really exciting, said that it was nothing like The Bill which is what they thought it was like. It's not like the telly, you're just a normal person trying to make things better and they could understand that. My dad is a teacher, my mum's a nurse so they can understand that the feeling of wanting to make things better for people.
I have thought sometimes when I've gone into situations that people might prejudge what I might say or how I might behave based on how I look. I have been into outwardly racist people's houses and sat down and had conversations with them. I've also been into other ethnic minorities people's houses and they have treated me differently to my colleagues. Sometimes it’s a bonus, people will speak to me because they can feel an affinity with me, I might represent them as part of the police from their community. Other times I might be sort of a picture of hate for that person, not only am I a policeman, I'm a brown policeman so doubly hated but, in my experience, it's only been very, very few people that have treated me differently because of what I look like. My experiences growing up help me to understand the differences in culture, the differences in community. That cultural difference helped me to sort of tread either side of this imaginary line that separates people and I realised that people are just people, they might call things different things but it's the same thing.
If I had to go back in time, would I change anything? No. No. I have loved every second of being a police officer, I hope to be able to do it for many, many more years.
If I take it right back, my mum comes from the West Indies and is a Christian and speaks English. My dad is from Sri Lanka and is a Hindu and did not speak a word of English when he arrived in the country. Nothing that ever happened to them stopped them from doing what they wanted to do, and I take my mandate from them if you like, they're my role models. My mum came to this country from the West Indies from a poor background and became a nurse, my dad came to this country not being able to speak English, did a university degree, became a lecturer in that field. Nothing stopped him from doing that, so I didn't feel any barriers were there for me. I was born in this country, I wanted to give something back. I naturally progressed into the police. Nothing has ever stopped me from achieving what I wanted to achieve.