“In that moment, I felt terrible” – PC Abid recounts his experience as a victim of hate crime
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During National Hate Crime Awareness Week, PC Mohammed Abid, based in York, shares his experience of being subjected to racial abuse as he responded to an incident at Bradford Forster Square railway station in summer 2021.
I joined British Transport Police (BTP) as a response officer in Leeds back in 2017 and currently work for our Operational Support Unit in York. Prior to joining BTP I worked for the ambulance service for eight years.
As part of my role I provide specialist support at large events such as football fixtures and it has allowed me to work on operations up and down the country. Just last month I was in Newquay working at the Boardmasters Festival.
During my time as a response officer in Leeds me and my colleagues responded to a report of a fight between two groups at Bradford Forster Square railway station. We attended the station, and it proved extremely difficult to ascertain exactly what had happened from those at the location.
We decided to let the two groups continue with their journeys separately, so we could make further enquiries into the incident. As I stood with one of the men, two women walked by and he made a racial slur to one of them.
I arrested him for the offence and he responded with a torrent of abuse because of the colour of my skin. I can’t remember exactly what he said, except calling me a “Muslim b******” and “turbanator”. In that moment, I felt terrible, but I had a job to do and my focus was to convey him to custody.
It certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve been targeted with abuse because of my ethnicity so the longer-term impact of the man’s comments was minimal – I’ve dealt with it before and I’ll deal with it again. I know this isn’t the same for everyone and being singled out because of who you are can be extremely depressing.
When I was young I was very aware that I didn’t look the same as everyone around me, and as a kid you want to fit in as much as possible. I would try and distance myself from my identity and culture – anything that associated me with being brown or Asian. I realised that wasn’t right, and as I grew up I embraced what makes me, me.
After the incident the support from my BTP colleagues was overwhelming – it made it crystal clear that we, as a force, have zero tolerance on hate crime. I felt those around me took more offence from the man’s actions than I did and when I would brush it off they reiterated that it is never okay. At no point did I feel I had to deal with the impact of this incident on my own.
The support extended further than just those around me. Senior officers reached out as they had concerns for my welfare and directed me to the support available, of which there is an abundance. I can’t fault the force for its response to the incident and it makes me proud to put on the BTP uniform every day.
I can confidently say that BTP takes an extremely tough stance against hate crime on the railway and I would urge anyone who is a victim of, or witness to, this behaviour to report it to us. The man who subjected me to the racial abuse has now been sentenced and we can ensure this is the outcome for anyone who is a victim of a hate crime. We do everything in our power to thoroughly investigate reports and ensure offenders are put before the courts.
No one should be targeted with harassment or violence because of who they are.
Victims or witnesses of a hate crime can report it to BTP by texting 61016, calling 0800 40 50 40 or via the Railway Guardian app. If you’re in immediate danger, dial 999.