TOP cop Fiz Ahmed is a familiar face in Bradford where, during almost thirty years’ service, she has tackled criminals, broken barriers by challenging misconceptions and won numerous medals, commendations and awards for her work.

Here she tells Life magazine what it’s really like being a Muslim woman on the frontline in one of the toughest jobs in the city and as a busy mum-of-three who has not only battled crime but cancer.

BORN in Leeds Fiz grew up in the heart of a warm loving family- bang slap in the middle of four brothers and two sisters.

“Having four brothers meant I had to stand up for myself,” she laughs.

“And being in the middle meant I was also the peacekeeper of the family- which makes sense as it is kind of like what I am doing now!”

Unlike many members of the community who moved en masse to the UK Fiz’s extended family were back in Lahore, so they only had each other.

“As a result I would say we had quite a liberal upbringing and without that encouragement I don’t think I would be in the police force today. We still had traditional values but weren’t restricted in what we wanted to do.”

And what Fiz wanted to do was enjoy the fresh air.

“I’d always played football and cricket with my brothers so I loved being in the outdoors.”

When she could be persuaded to sit indoors she would watch wrestling on a Saturday morning with her family and Wimbledon during the summer.

“I have been lucky enough to attend Centre Court and I have policed a lot of sporting events which I have really loved like Test matches, football and rugby.

“I wasn’t really academic and I was quite outspoken as well. My mum was a huge influence and I saw her as a role model especially when she took a part-time job to support the family.”

But Fiz, who stayed on in sixth form and completed a BTEC, didn’t know what career she wanted to follow.

“Back then careers advice wasn’t so good and I was really struggling to find my vocation.”

She tried various fruitless admin roles until her sister suggested she apply for a job in the travel industry.

At the same time she had started to take an interest in the police force having watched The Bill on television.

She sent off two applications- one to West Yorkshire Police and one to British Airways’ as cabin crew.

And then Fate stepped in.

“I was offered the police job first and went with that. A week later I found out I had been accepted by British Airways too.”

She was a fresh-faced 22-year-old when she began her two year training and, from the moment she joined, she felt part of a family.

“It was a very sunny autumnal day in September 1990 and there were 52 of us. I remember a very warm friendly feeling, like I was part of something.”

Fiz was the only Muslim female in the intake and only one of two women from an ethnic background.

What followed was two years of intensive training in all areas of police work.

“I never knew about life until I joined the police. There are so many different challenges that come with the territory. You have to be flexible.”

She remembers one of her earliest jobs.

“I had been in the force for six months and we got the call about a cot death. I still remember every detail especially as my colleague was expecting at the time and it obviously affected them.”

Despite being a rookie, Fiz bravely took the leadership role in that situation dealing with the devastated parents.

After her training she spent two years at Weetwood police station in Leeds before going to Millgate which is now part of Leeds city centre.

“I learned a new set of skills which really helped with the next stage of my policing dealing with crimes like robbery and shoplifting.”

One day she was asked by her sergeant if she would consider working in Bradford as she would be able to put her language skills to good use here.

She thought about it carefully and applied for a job as a youth project officer, coming to the city in 2002.

West Yorkshire Police were already doing a lot of community work in Bradford at that time but Fiz’s arrival took it to another level.

“I told people in the community I was here to help.”

She got stuck into sourcing funding to help young people in the 12 to 16 bracket when she was based at Eccleshill police station then moved to Lawcroft House.

Naturally being brave comes with the territory so it’s no surprise to hear that daredevil Fiz abseiled down the police station for charity.

But she’s had to be brave in her personal life too.

In 2015 while showering she found a lump in her breast. Terrified she made an appointment with her doctor and was shocked to be told it was cancer. Just ten days later she was having an operation.

She also had to undergo six gruelling rounds of chemotherapy, three weeks apart, followed by 20 rounds of radiotherapy every day for four weeks.

Now she is using her innate ‘outspokenness’ to alert other women to the importance of checking their breasts for lumps.

“We don’t speak out about these things in our community but I have been vocal about what happened to me and I have had women coming up to me saying I have helped to break down that taboo.

“As women we are often holding everything together and don’t make time for ourselves but we must- and then do something about it if something isn’t right.”

Fiz said her colleagues, friends and family had been very supportive as well as organisations like Breast Cancer Haven, a Yorkshire-based charity.

Back at work and posting updates about her work regularly on social media, Fiz said she was often approached by members of the community.

“I get so many young girls coming up to me asking me for selfies it feels like a privilege. For me it is the best job in the world.”

By Anila Baig