Friday 17 July 2020 1:50 AM UTC
File picture of Shaju Bhaskaran being presented with the Long Service Award by former Deputy Commissioner Sir Craig Mackey QPM
Shaju Bhaskaran is one among us. He had a similar childhood like us all. However, when passion, desire and drive sets in talented individuals are unstoppable. Shaju does not boast of high ideals or about anything about burning the midnight oil. For him its all simply laid bare in front of us all. Just follow them with the fire and determination and no one can stop you from achieving what you want.
While talking to him one gets to know that Shaju is very precise and clear on what he says as such is his clarity of thoughts and actions. His life itself is an inspiration to any and thus ukmalayalee.com caught up with Shaju Bhaskaran to share his brief journey from his start as a police officer to today as a police sergeant with the world-renowned Met Police Counter Terrorism Command. Excerpts from the interview.
Can you briefly say a brief about your early life in the UK and where you are from?
The first question we Malayalees ask each other is “ningalude sthalam evideya?”; which means “where are you from?”. I was born in the London and lived most of my life in East Ham. However, my family are originally from Trivandrum, Kerala with my mother and father’s hometowns being Kallamballam and Attingal, respectively.
My parents arrived in East London in the late 60s after my father received British Overseas Citizenship from Singapore. Like many young girls and boys from my generation, I had a very traditional upbringing that had its positives and negatives; with one significant positive being my arranged marriage to a lovely lady from Venjaramood (this should earn me some credits!).
What inspired you to be a police officer and share your experiences?
In 1996, I applied to become a police officer for the Metropolitan Police. I was inspired to join up by a close relative who was a police officer and would often tell me stories about his day. He was out and about, involved in plenty of exciting work with some hard-working and funny colleagues.
I hadn’t particularly enjoyed studying and my only real passion in life was cricket and messing around, much to dad’s frustration. But when I heard my relative’s stories, it became evident to me that this was the career I wanted.
This was the first point in my life where I knew I was heading in the right direction. I felt truly committed and began to work hard. As a result – after successfully passing interviews, exams and physical tests – I found myself at the famous police training centre at Hendon, for 18 weeks of training, before “passing out” as a probationer a year later, age 22.
I started out my service as a uniformed officer patrolling the streets of Hackney. Without a doubt this was my greatest policing experience. I was among the first on the scene following murders, riots, pub fights and shootings. I took a lot of pride from being there to stop a crime, support a victim or arrest a suspect.
On other occasions I was involved in the planning and execution of drug raids, and at a later date I enjoyed my role as a supervisor managing crime scenes.
Can you please share with us some challenging times you had?
When the Olympics came to London in 2012, I joined the Olympic Site Support Unit – the dedicated policing team responsible for policing the London 2012 Olympic Park and Village. I led a team of constables whose job was to patrols vulnerable areas; I supervised intelligence reports and chaired meetings with key partners.
I was also the lead sergeant for policing the Basketball Venue, Eton Manor Training Centre and the Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford, and I played a lead role in carrying out briefings and site tours of the Olympic Park for foreign dignitaries and government representatives. As a supervisor this was a very challenging and prestigious role, and I played my part in ensuring we had a safe and successful Olympic Games.
Today you are a police sergeant in the world-renowned Met Police Counter Terrorism Command. How does it feel?
After 23 years, I am settled in the job but it’s not easy. As Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker in Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility”, and as a police officer you have to be prepared to be accountable for your actions and stand up to scrutiny.
It’s also a role that comes with a lot of personal risk – as an officer you are on the frontline, often putting yourself in danger. In October 2000 I jumped into the Grand Union Canal in Hackney to save a suspect.
I was chasing him, as he was suspected to be involved in stealing a motor vehicle, and in his panic to evade capture he jumped into the deep canal. He attempted to swim across but started to drown, so without thinking, I jumped in after him.
I drank plenty of horrible canal water but eventually brought him to safety. We both rested for a while and then I placed him in my handcuffs and arrested him for theft of motor vehicle. Later on I was awarded a certificate from the Royal Humane Society for my actions.
A lot has changed during my 23 years with the Met Police. One change I have noticed but I think still needs work is the diversity of police officers and staff. When I paraded for my first shift at Stoke Newington Police Station, out of a room of 30 officers crammed into the PC’s writing room, the only officers from an ethnic background were myself and a female black officer.
What do you have to share with the Keralite community and ethnic minority communities in general?
Today I am happy to see the number of female and male officers from ethnic backgrounds has increased. This is definitely a step in the right direction but we need even more people from diverse backgrounds to join the police force and represent the community we serve.
We don’t only need more people from ethnic backgrounds, but also from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ+) community. I think the Metropolitan Police Service is an industry leader when it comes to having LGBTQ+ representation in their ranks and I have seen this from the ground level through to the senior ranks.
I was once asked by my cousin, “What’s it like being a copper?” I remember gleaming with joy and pride, saying “Going to work is like an adventure, and every day is different”.
If you are like me and you are prepared to work hard, are looking for adventure, are seeking a career and most of all, enjoy helping people; this could be the job for you, whatever your ethnicity, gender or sexuality.
Being a police officer has given me so many skills, built my confidence, toughened me up and has challenged me both physically and mentally. Yet more importantly, it has given me a lifetime of stories that I can reflect on with pride.
I hope my story will give you an insight into policing in London; with a view to considering this as a possible career path for yourself, a relative or a friend. If you would like more information, please visit the website below for career opportunities.
The Met is recruiting and you can join us for a rewarding career as a police officer in London right now. See www.met.police.uk/car/careers for more information.
We have heard that you were a passionate cricketer and you had played in your early years. Can you please share your experience during those days?
In my younger days cricket was a passion of mine and like many other kids my age, I spent countless days playing cricket rather than focusing on my studies. As a teenager, I captained the Ford Colts Cricket Team in Newbury Park, East London.
I was an average all-rounder but looking back at my playing days I think I was more of a ‘net player’. Cricket lovers will understand what this term means but it essentially means that I showed potential during practice sessions, but this seldom materialised on the pitch.
This was very frustrating for me in my younger days and often this frustration manifested itself into aggressive outburst towards the opposition on the pitch.
I often clashed with Malayalee teams from East Ham (especially Global CC), Croydon, Southall, and Kent; in hindsight I realise it was very childish! However, I greatly enjoyed the competition and enjoyed my time with my Malayalee brothers from KCC and EMCC who I played for.
These brothers were also instrumental in teaching me the art of ‘theri’ (swearing); being a Malayalee born in the UK, I was limited in this form of Malayalam poetry. Unfortunately, due to work and family commitments I have not played Cricket in over 18 years, but I sometimes visit the guys and reminisce about the old days with fond memories.
Like many other Malayalees, I still follow and support India when I get the chance, but I do miss the good old days of watching Sachin, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman and Sehwag – what a line up! And yes, I would fail the Norman Tebbit Test! (The oldies will understand this).
We have also heard that you are a fitness and take care of health very preciously. Please share with us on how you embraced this fitness regimen?
Writing this article has given me the opportunity to reflect on my past, and one thing that sticks out for me is that sports has been a positive influence on my wellbeing mentally and physically. Unfortunately, like many parents, sports often take a back seat due to family and work commitments.
However, I feel it’s absolutely vital to keep in good shape as you get older to prevent illness and injury. After I stopped playing cricket, I joined a gym and started to experiment with weights, and eventually it became a hobby for me.
As the years went on, I started to lift more weights and eat more food, which resulted in my weight ballooning up to 90kg around 4 years ago – I was a big boy! Unfortunately, there was plenty of fat around my body due to my unhealthy eating and drinking habits, which led to a BMI of over 27 (overweight category).
In 2016, I definitely hit a mid-life crisis and decided to lose some weight, stop lifting heavy weights and took up kickboxing. I stuck with the kickboxing and received helped from a Personal Trainer/MMA Coach and as the months went on, my weight started to drop through exercise and a healthier diet.
Over a period of a year, I lost around 20kg and resulted in me taking part in an amateur boxing match for Cancer Research UK – Ultra White Collar Boxing. Every person in my family disagreed with my wishes, but I didn’t care and my decision was final. However, my family saw my commitment and eventually came around and supported me.
In July 2017, my mum, wife, sister, family members and friends watched me get battered in the first round, somehow manage to turn it around in the remaining rounds and squeeze out a draw against a lad half my age. It was one of the most memorable times of my life, due to the hard work and sacrifices I had made, but also a proud moment for me, my family, and friends.
It was also an opportunity for me to learn a key lesson: age is just number and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re too old.
Since I lost all that weight, fitness has become my passion. In 2019, I successfully completed my Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification and I now run a ladies only fitness class once a week and take on personal clients during my spare time.
Money can buy many things in life but it can’t buy time! However, I strongly believe that a healthy body and mind will hopefully prolong your life and the quality of it.
As we get older and more towards our retirement age, there’s a tendency to relax, take life easy and indulge yourself, and so we should, because we earned the right to after years of working. However, with age comes lots of issues, especially with the foods we Malayalees eat such as; heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cancers etc.
Therefore, it’s critical that we balance the good life with exercise and healthy living, so that we can enjoy a happy retirement with our families.
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