My Mum

by Elijah MacBean


My mum, Reehaina Saddique, recently celebrated her 50th birthday which has led to a lot of reflection on the massive achievements she’s made in her life, both personally and professionally. She is a widowed parent of three; Samina (26), Emaan (10) and me (25), homeowner and academic, completing both an English and PGCE degree. When speaking to her about her life and achievements, after her family, she is most proud of her involvement in forming the Lancashire Black Police Association (LBPA) during her time in the Force from 1991 to 2002.

My mum grew up in a traditional Pakistani/Kashmiri household with her four siblings. From a young age she knew she wanted a job relating to law and order, however her fear of heights ruled out the air force and the long periods of time away from home steered her away from the army. Policing seemed to be a suitable fit as it would allow her to implement her passion for law and order without being too far away from home. This decision was met with a lot of backlash, at aged 13 a school career adviser told her that she ‘would not be allowed’ to join the Force due to her gender, sex, and religious beliefs and instead should focus on ‘getting married.’ Initially my grandparents would also not approve of her career aspirations, stating their worry that she would be isolated and lack support, given they had not seen any other South Asian female officer at the time. This didn’t dissuade my mother to follow her aspirations, when I asked her if she too felt worried about joining, she said, ‘somebody had to be the first South Asian female officer in Lancashire, so why not me?’


Following a meeting with the local police sergeant my mother was able to get my grandparents’ blessing to join the force. In 1991 mum joined the Burnley Police Force, an area that both then and now has a large British-Pakistani community. Locals at the time were shocked by a South Asian woman officer and often assumed she was a volunteer, as they had never seen an officer like her. My mother was constantly asked if she was even a ‘proper’ officer with arresting powers, as they couldn’t believe she was part of the Force. However, when my mother explained to them, she was a ‘proper’ officer, she was met with both shock and delight as to a lot of the young British-Pakistani constituents in Burnley, especially girls, she was their only representation in local law enforcement. Over her time on the beat, she struck up a positive relationship with the local community as she was one of very few, if not only, local officer who was fluent in Punjabi, a mother-tongue to many of her constituents.
Having said this, being the first of anything inevitably comes with complications and challenges. One of the first challenges my mum retold was about uniform. In modern society when we think of police uniforms the last thing we envision is a skirt, but in the 90s, female officers were expected to wear one! This was an issue for my mother as she has strong Islamic beliefs and a teaching in Islam is about the importance of dressing modestly, meaning she wouldn’t wear a skirt. Unwilling to compromise her religious beliefs for her uniform, a heated discussion with her supervisor followed, which is now the norm in policing. This experience highlighted to her the Force’s naivety to religious exemptions at the time.

Reehaina Saddique

There were times when she felt the force was behind the times and ignorant to differing cultures. Another stark example of this is the Force’s unwillingness to make adjustments for Muslim officers fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Superiors would enforce asinine rules about break timings which conflicted with the opening of the day’s fasting. She was not allowed to take her break ten minutes later than usual in order to correlate with the opening of her fast but rather had to take it at the original set time. This was frustrating for her and fellow Muslim officers as she explained in busy times at the office, or on the beat, “break times would constantly be altered to adhere to workloads,” she sighs, “but could not be altered for Muslim officers to break their fast.” Again, this experience left my mother feeling frustrated and deflated at work. She felt the Force didn’t match the multicultural and multifaith community she lived or worked within. It was at this point she decided to intervene and explore options to combat these issues.


In 1996, mum contacted the already established Black Police Associations in Greater Manchester and London Metropolitan for advice on how to set up a branch in Lancashire. She didn’t want it to be perceived that the Lancashire Black Police Association was an attempt to set up a different police force but rather a group within the Lancashire Police Force to act as a support mechanism for uniformed and non-uniformed members.

Unfortunately, the idea of a Lancashire BPA was not met with universal support from her colleagues. Some officers believed my mother was creating unnecessary drama in the office and didn’t see the need for a Lancashire branch of the BPA. She also recalled being seen as a ‘white-hating black activist’ who was going to self-sabotage her career in pursuing the creation of the LBPA. Mum and I both laughed at this as she was married to a white, British man at the time and had mixed-race children, including myself. I asked her about her mental health and support network at the time, as these were some unsurmountable odds she was facing as a newbie, low-ranking Constable. It was a difficult time, but she had the support of my late father, Glenn, some of her colleagues and her family. She quotes my grandfather who at the time said to her, “if the whole world is on one side and they are wrong, stand alone on the right side, as I’m always with you and so is Allah. You were brave enough to join, be an example.”
My mum hoped that if she could convince the top of the Force about the importance of setting up the LBPA the rest of the office would follow suit with no issue.

Reehaina was proud to have been instrumental in setting up the LBPA

Chief Constable Pauline Clair was extremely supportive from the very beginning, sending out a memo detailing her support for establishing a Lancashire Black Police Association which had an almost 180-degree effect. Mum now found herself being invited to meetings in which she was refused to before and was starting to establish a voice for the minority officers who felt unheard previously.


However, despite the Chief Constable’s support there were still rumours that the LBPA was an excuse for minority members to ‘white-bash’ their white colleagues behind closed doors. Some members of the Force assumed white colleagues could not be members. This was untrue and to combat these false rumours Chief Constable Pauline Clair once again stepped in and became an Honorary Member.

The Lancashire Black Police Association was founded in November 1997. In the following months a National and International BPA was formed and is an integral part of policing and also has served as a balance in many high-profile cases, including the 1999 Steven Lawrence Report. Today the Association is still a prominent and important part of the Police Force and a once ‘extreme vision’ is now the norm in policing.

Reehaina and Glenn on their wedding day

Mum left the Force in 2002 due to injury, taking an early pension. Since leaving the Force she has continued to support her local community by setting up a private college, helping local residents develop language skills and retrain into work. As well as this, she is in the beginning stages of starting a half-way house for locals who have had a tough start and need all-round support bringing professional resources into one place through her commercial business. Using her life skills to help the local community where she belongs, mum is still looking forward to her next half century!

NorthernLife May/June 2022