Nick Rook overcame adversity as a child to achieve his dream of becoming a police officer. But shortly after he was promoted to the rank of inspector, he lost his sight. Nick tells us about his career and how he adapted to sight loss.
As a child, Nick struggled with dyslexia and received little help at school. So, he turned to sport and took up karate. He gained a black belt in just four years and went on to become a qualified karate instructor, teaching people who were disabled or had experienced hardship in their lives. By 1995 he had fulfilled his own dream of joining the police force in West Yorkshire.
From constable to inspector
Recalling his early police career, Nick says: “I started as all police officers do, as a police constable. You do your two-year probationary period. Then if you want to, you can specialise, so I originally specialised in public order in the Operational Support Unit. Then I moved over to the Firearms Support Unit, where I was a PC, a sergeant and an inspector.
“My real passion was for firearms support – the Armed Response Unit. Although there was a lot of training and qualifying, my memories and experiences were absolutely brilliant.”
During his years of service, Nick received a Chief Constable's Commendation for Operation Rocky, one of the longest firearms operations conducted in West Yorkshire.
Losing his sight
Four years ago Nick suffered health complications which resulted in him losing nearly all of the sight in his right eye and later his left eye. His condition is extremely painful and he has to make regular visits to hospital. Despite this, Nick was determined to hold on to his job in West Yorkshire Police.
Nick says: “My sight went overnight. At that point I’d been promoted to inspector and had taken up a position as commander in Bradford. After I lost my sight, I thought: ‘You can either give up or look on it as offering new opportunities. It might be opportunities you don’t want, but you’ve got to look at the positives.’”
Adapting to sight loss
“I had a workplace assessment and I was supported by my supervisor and my line manager. I’ve learned how to use specialist equipment and it’s very office-based, so it’s a question of making sensible adjustments,” explains Nick.
“The hardest thing I’ve had to deal with is the mental side of things. You go through a period of mourning when some days are harder than others. It’s that fight or flight time when you can say ‘I either give up or I’m going to give this my absolute best shot’ and try to inspire other people and show them that disability is not a life-ending thing.”
Making a difference
Nick is now one of only a handful of officers who are registered as sight impaired in the UK.
“The great thing is that in the policing world you’ve got the police officer route, but you’ve also got the support unit, so there are still opportunities,” says Nick.
“I could have just said my time in the police force is done, but there is so much assisted technology around today and it’s not just a case of bumbling through. West Yorkshire Police have been so supportive. What I would say to anybody is don’t write things off before you’ve actually knocked on that door, and just see if that door opens.”
Nick went on to help set up the first operations centre for the Police Air Service and is now an executive member of the West Yorkshire Police Disability Association.
“The disability work is something I’m really passionate about; I do it in my own time,” Nick says. “In my professional career I still have aspirations of going for promotion. And if I can inspire somebody – if there’s someone out who’s been told they’ll never be anything, I hope they look at me and say ‘Do you know what? It’s up to me. I can make that difference. I’m not going to take no for an answer.’”