Durham’s volunteer police officers have seen their efforts during the last twelve months recognised at a recent awards ceremony.
The Special Constable of the Year Award was won by SC Andrew BENJAMIN, partly for his brave actions during an incident which actually happened before he started with Durham Constabulary in March last year.
Andrew was still serving as a Special with Lincolnshire Police but was off duty when he happened to be in Durham one evening. He sprang into action when he noticed Insp Leanne Thorns struggling to deal with two men, one of whom had assaulted another officer. He rushed to support the inspector, resulting in him being punched, but as a result of his assistance both men were arrested and later charged for violent offences.
Although he was at the time living outside of the north east, he made numerous journeys to the area to provide evidence at court to support the prosecution.
Insp Thorns said; “I have been extremely impressed with Andrew’s work. He displays an empathetic and understanding manner when dealing with victims of crime and portrays an excellent image of Durham Constabulary.”
The Specials Student of the Year award was presented to SC Mark KEVENEY. The award is in memory of Special Constable David Ward who died unexpectedly during his training period in 2013. David was a popular member of his training group and joining the Special Constabulary had been a long-held ambition.
SC Keveney joined the ranks of the Specials in June 2014 and currently works full-time in the force’s communications centre.
At the end of the classroom phase of their initial training, all Special Constables are offered the chance to complete a ‘knowledge check’ for the Specials Policing Diploma.
Mark is the only officer in recent times to have a 100% success rate. He reports for duty at Durham City, working closely with the Neighbourhood Policing Teams.
The Team of the Year Award went to the officers covering Derwentside and Chester-le-Street, led by Acting Special Chief Inspector Hayley Gibson. The team consistently performed to a high level over the course of the past year, particularly during a NATO conference in Wales when a large number of regular officers were deployed to help police the event.
This meant additional resources from the Special Constabulary were invaluable in helping provide normal policing cover.
The team completed a huge amount of volunteered hours over 2014 and into the current year, providing support at incidents including serious road collisions and high risk missing persons. In a twelve-month period they attended over 600 incidents.
His commitment to supporting local neighbourhood and response policing prompted praise from both his colleagues and members of the public. His actions included a foot chase of a thief who had stolen a poppy collection box from a volunteer in a local supermarket.
SC Kate PRICE (Durham and Stanley), who became the first female special to successfully complete the force’s public order training course, which means she can be deployed at serious incidents to other forces as well as in Durham; she worked in her own time to complete a three-week driving course and a pursuit course; attended more than 260 incidents and volunteered over 25 hours duty per month throughout her service.
Kate has now been successful in joining the ranks of the regular police and is currently going through her initial training.
SC Dan FISHER who joined as a Special in July 2009 and works mainly in the south of the county contributed over 830 hours duty last year, the majority being performed on weekend night shifts, even volunteering to police on Christmas Day.
He has also passed the initial pursuit driving and public order courses.
SC Fisher was also the joint winner of an award with SC Laura SIMPSON-JONES. Both were praised for their actions during a tragic incident where a young girl had hung herself in her bedroom.
Laura and Dan were the first on scene, and not only attempted to resuscitate the girl but dealt calmly with other family members who were clearly distressed.
Their award recognised that “both officers showed a tremendous amount of resolve and professionalism during this incident. Despite the tragic and difficult circumstances, both officers remained calm and offered unrivalled service to all those involved.”
And acting Special Inspector Claire PATTERSON was commended for her efforts to support operational policing during the NATO conference when many members of the force had been seconded to the security for the conference.
Special Chief Officer Dale Checksfield, head of Durham Constabulary’s volunteer officers, said; “Last year saw continued growth in Durham Special Constabulary with broadened deployment options, an increase in recruitment and development activities to ensure the Specials are positioned to support the force’s strategic aims in the years ahead.”
Chief Superintendent Graham Hall, from the force’s Neighbourhood command said; “The awards are a true testament to the exceptional talent of our Special Constables and highlight the enormous contribution they make in both supporting regular colleagues and improving people’s lives in County Durham and Darlington.”
Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg said; “Our Special Constables give up their free time to help make their community a safer place. They are an inspiration to others it is right that they are truly recognised for their hard work and valued contribution.”
Special Constables are volunteers with full police powers of arrest. They support the officers come from a wide range of backgrounds, with teachers, students, social workers, engineers and oil rig workers amongst the ranks.