A FORMER police inspector has spoken about his experience of serving his hometown for more than a decade.

Brian Sheeran, from Leigh, joined Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in April 1986 aged 22 and started his trade south of the city in hardened districts such as Wythenshawe.

After an "eye-opening" eight years Brian was promoted to the rank of sergeant at the force's Bolton division.

Leigh Journal:

Brian, middle row, second from left. lines up with colleagues on his first day on the job in April 1986

He worked in that role for three years before a two-year spell at GMP's tactical aid unit.

The ambitious officer then moved up the policing ladder to the role of inspector in Salford in 1999 and later transferred to Wigan and Leigh police stations in 2005.

He served the borough for 11 years and also worked on operations in the region such as the Manchester riots in 2011.

In 2016, Brian retired at the age of 52 after 30 years in uniform.

Leigh Journal:

Brian, wearing an Inspector's red epaulette, at Manchester Town Hall policing a student protest in 2010

Leigh Journal:

Brian working after a night of riots in Manchester in 2011

Now 56, he said: "It's very strange when you are in a police car and everyone is looking at you and it was something I got used to.

"But when it was in my hometown I really recognised how I was being watched.

"I had a good upbringing in Leigh so when I worked in the police I realised about the crime that was going on.

"Patrolling the streets where I had played as a child was surreal.

"I wasn't policing the community, I was policing my community.

"I know that other officers from the town have felt the same way too.

"People that I recognised from the past were getting up to things which was a real shock.

"It was a bit disconcerting to see old acquaintances sat in the cells."

But Brian still believes Leigh is a "safe" place.

"Leigh is still a lovely town," he added.

Leigh Journal:

Inspector Sheeran on his last day at work

However, one area of concern in Leigh, which he also discovered in other areas of Greater Manchester, was the level of domestic abuse he witnessed.

He said: "Domestic violence was particularly bad in Leigh and Wigan.

"I was the domestic liaison officer for domestic violence in the borough.

"Before I worked for the police I never thought it was possible that a man would hit a woman.

"But on day one that happened.

"They are very difficult situations to deal with.

"We would get called to the same homes on more than one occasion but then people would decide not to press charges."

Brian thoroughly enjoyed his first 25 years in the force, calling it the "best job in the world".

But following the arrival of austerity, which led to police cuts, his job satisfaction took a turn for the worse.

Operational decisions, which transferred officers away from his team, also put extra pressure on the resources he had at his disposal.

He said: "The police often get criticism for not doing enough but if a builder is asked to do a job and has his tools taken off him people understand he won't be able to do it.

"But people seem to forget about the cuts we were having."

Brian also believes policing is more dangerous than when he started his career and has the utmost respect for those serving their communities.

He added: "Police officers are heroic and courageous.

"It is a really tough job."