A FORMER police officer who battled rioters and car thieves during two high-octane decades is swapping his warrant card for a dog collar - and becoming a parish priest in South Yorkshire.
Paul Cartwright, aged 40, joined West Yorkshire Police in 1990 and entered the high-speed role of traffic pursuit.
He informed families when their loved ones had died on the roads and acted as a liaison officer - but always dreamed of becoming a man of the cloth.
He says since attending a service as a teenager he knew religion was his calling but was too scared to realise his dream.
Now he is to become vicar at St Peter’s Church in Barnsley.
Dad-of-two Paul said: “I thought that God would not want somebody from my background to be a priest. I lived in a council house.
“I carried on going to church, although for a while I tried to cut back on attendance and hoped the feeling would go away but it was like being homesick.
“Eventually I felt I had to do something about it, and I put myself forward to the church for training, almost hoping they would say no.
“But they said yes and I went into work and told my colleagues I had to leave the force and train to be a priest. They were amazingly supportive.
“One of my clergy colleagues always says I ‘walk like Plod’.
“I guess you never get away from that. But I am looking forward now to my new life - and as a priest, you can never retire.”
Paul served on the beat during the Bradford riots in 2001, and had to quell protesters during the G8 summit in Scotland.
“When I joined the police I saw it as a vocation, and I think most officers would say that they join the force to help people, despite the criticisms they get.
“For every situation where you arrest someone, you are involved in 10 situations where you help someone and make sure they are safe or reassured.
“I think at the core of any police officer is that desire to help and to care for people and that is what I believe being a priest is also about. I found religion when I attended a service as a 13-year-old cub scout but ran away from it.”
He will continue as force chaplain and as a member of the West Yorkshire Police band.
He said his wife Deborah, a teacher and children Ben, seven, and Lizzie, four, had been a huge support, particularly when he was diagnosed with leukaemia in April 2008, weeks before he was due to be ordained.
He said: “I was angry with God. I said to him ‘Here I am doing what you want me to do and now this has happened.’
“But my faith got me through it.
“It adds another dimension to my ministry. When you are alongside someone who is suffering you have that empathy and experience.”
He has been elected to the Church of England General Synod and will be chaplain at Barnsley College and university campus.