Andy George lost his youngest sister to racism. She was only 23 when she took her own life 11 years ago.
Her tragic death is what drove the 41-year-old PSNI Inspector to become president of the National Black Police Association (NBPA), which represents all black/ethnic minority police associations in the UK.
"It was me who found her... it was so difficult for myself and my family," Andy told the Belfast Telegraph.
"For me, it's a life lost that didn't need to be.
"It's what led me to doing the work with the NBPA, and that's what drives me."
Born and bred in Co Armagh, the eldest of four mixed-race children to a Northern Ireland mother and a Malaysian father, he recalls being "one of two or three families in the whole town from an ethnic minority".
Andy, who joined the PSNI in 1999, said he has seen little change in attitudes here, where, he added, the statistics show that racism is now even more prevalent than sectarianism.
"It's quite shocking, given that at the last census 1.8% of the population identified as being from an ethnic minority," he said.
"Northern Ireland can be one of the most welcoming places on earth, but it's also home to some really abhorrent crimes that have a devastating impact, like the recent arson attack at the Belfast Multicultural Association."
The divorcee and father of two has become a high-profile figure since being appointed the new NBPA president, initially on an interim basis, last July.
His appointment - which became permanent in October - coincided with a series of infamous 'racial profiling' incidents, such as Metropolitan Police officers' treatment of black Labour MP Dawn Butler.
Latest figures show that black people are nine times more likely to be stopped by police, and especially in London where the Met conducts 48% of all stops in England and Wales.
Met commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has insisted that the UK's largest force was no longer institutionally racist, but Andy doesn't accept that.
"Institutional racism doesn't mean that every single officer and staff member is racist," he said.
"It's more about the fact that, over time, systems and processes within policing have worked to the detriment of ethnic minority communities.
"Think about it as being like alcohol dependency; you have to admit the problem before you can tackle it. Admit it's there, then start putting measures in place to resolve it."
The mid-Ulster native said he believes his own force has problems with institutional racism, citing officers' treatment of Black Lives Matters protesters in June - which the Police Ombudsman found was unfair and discriminatory and for which PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne later apologised - as an example.
But he added: "I believe the Chief Constable is sincere in his desire to change things and to get things right for ethnic minority communities. The problem is that we're a large organisation and it's about getting the mindset changed right across it."
On two different occasions, Andy has taken grievances against the PSNI in relation to promotion.
The first one, in 2012, was settled, while the second was dismissed.
Andy says he felt he was not promoted despite being highly commended twice and winning awards.
"For instance, back in July 2015 when an Orangeman drove his car into a group of protesters at Ardoyne, it was me who got him out.
"I was hit by the car, dislocating my knee.
"I got punched a few times by the crowd while protecting the driver."
Was he worried about taking on his employer?
"Yes. There are no winners," he replied.
"You always get people saying that I've 'played the race card', or that I was 'looking for a pay-out'.
"But nothing could pay you enough to go through that process. I thought about quitting the force a couple of times because of it."
He added: "For the first action in 2012, I paid £11,000 of my own money because that's how strongly I felt about that. It was a gamble."
Andy said ethnic minorities remain "seven to eight times under-represented" in the PSNI.
"There's nobody above Inspector level from an ethnic minority," said Andy, who left the Armed Response Unit in 2017 and is currently attached to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit in HR.
"The recruitment branch of the PSNI has been trying to do something about this.
"It's all about engagement, and trust and confidence."
Andy, who revealed that he and his new partner are expecting their first child in April, said his earliest recollection of racism in Northern Ireland still haunts him.
"I was only six years old," he said.
"I was at the circus, and I was one of three children selected to go into the middle of the ring.
"At that stage, I didn't realise I was different from everybody else.
"The clown asked us what our names were...and I was last to speak.
"When I said mine, he paused before shouting out 'Sausage! This is Sausage'.
"The place erupted in laughter.
"I couldn't work out why he was calling me 'Sausage'... then it suddenly dawned on me that it must be because of the colour of my skin.
"I was probably the only person from an ethnic minority in the whole circus.
"It felt like the Big Top was coming in around me.
"Nobody stood up and said 'that's not right'. Everybody was just laughing."
At primary school, where Andy said he was "the only person from an ethnic minority", one particular memory from P7 stands out.
"I was called names all the time, and then one day three guys attacked me," he said.
"I stood up and fought back."
He continued: "Thankfully the vice principal, who knew what had really happened, intervened."
Andy told how he initially distanced himself from his Malaysian roots - his military father had been stationed in Northern Ireland and then moved here permanently after meeting his mother.
And he said that his heritage is "something I've had to come to terms with, probably because of the racism".
"Even when I joined the police, I made a point of eating soda bread and potato bread," he admitted.
"I really pushed the similarities, rather than the differences, so that people didn't notice the differences.
"It wasn't until my late 20s that I came to terms with my ethnicity."
Ironically, he tells me that he "always alludes to a relative" when illustrating how racism can manifest itself, even at low levels.
"They still come out with stuff about 'foreigners coming over here' and I'm always pulling them up about it," he said.
"I point out that people could be saying the same thing about me, to which they reply: 'I don't mean you, you're one of us!'
"Racism isn't just about swastikas on doors and graffiti on walls; it manifests itself in many different ways."
Andy's sister died when he was 31.
"That is the impact it [racism] can have on you," he said.
"I've another brother and sister as well, but she was the youngest."
Despite the obvious societal issues, Andy says he is "proud to be from Northern Ireland", adding: "It's what got me to be president of the NBPA.
"People don't expect somebody that looks like me to speak with a Northern Ireland accent," he said.
"Whenever I'm engaging with government ministers - including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel - and police commanders in England, Wales and Scotland, they really want to know what it's like in Northern Ireland as we transition into a more peaceful society.
"Policing in London is tough, but no tougher than here, where the police service is more sensitive to its communities while still coping with high levels of violence and threat.
"I still have to check under my car every morning for a bomb.
"I have to bring my firearm home with me."
The man who describes himself as "mixed race - Asian and Northern Irish" will continue as NBPA president, representing around 50 UK police forces, until October, when he must decide if he wants to stand for another two years.
But he admitted: "It's a critical time. I took over just as the BLM movement started, and just as the impact of George Floyd's death in America kicked in.
"I want the organisation I represent to be the forefront of pushing for racial equality; we really can be the bridge between police and communities," he added.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, contact the Samaritans on 116 123, or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000