Volunteer Week 2019 – Community Safety Volunteer gives back to his community
Graham Benson worked as a Police Constable for Humberside Police for 40 years, he could have retired after 30 years but loved the job so much he stayed for an extra 10 years.
You would have thought that would have been enough for him wouldn’t you? But as he planned for his retirement in 2018 he knew that he wanted to give something back to the community that he lives in and decided that the best way to do that was to volunteer to work with the police cadet scheme in Goole.
Graham returned as a volunteer drawing from his valuable 40-years-experience. We asked him what made him want to volunteer. He said, “I felt I could add to the organisation with my experience, especially with the cadets, it’s a prize opportunity to influence young people’s lives and maybe help prevent them falling in with the wrong people and perhaps getting into trouble.”
But why work with the cadets? Graham said, “I have always been interested in young people and trying to influence them and give them opportunities. Rather than them hanging around on street corners it would give them something to do.
“The idea behind the police cadets is to open the eyes of youngsters. A lot of young people think that the police are bad, often from what they have seen on TV and it’s to open their eyes as to what the police do.
“That it’s not just locking people up but how they investigate, how they search, how they look after forensics and build a complete picture of the police. It gives them a real insight into policing, hopefully they might come into the organisation either as a PC but also consider investigator and PCSO roles or even BTP or British Nuclear.
“We get people within the police and other organisations to talk to the cadets about their experiences so they get a variety of opportunities to see that it isn’t just one job and there are different ways of becoming an investigator or a police officer and hopefully they will be the future of the police.”
We asked Graham what he does with the shiny new cadets, He said, “Well when they come to us some of them are less than shiny and need to go through dress sense, presentation and get them to understand standards expected.
“We get them to do a little bit of drill so that if they have to go out in public they can look smart and can march confidently together.
“We then build up over time a number of lessons, we talk about legislation and we like them to find out about other organisations such as the fire brigade, and get some input from them.
“Cadets are asked to work at lots of different events throughout the year, they are a key part of the Humberside police family. Whenever we go out we get good feedback.
“We had a joint course with the air cadets on cyber awareness and we had very good reports back from the staff there. It is very rewarding to get a good report back about the young people who are our cadets. I take personal pride in the way they conduct themselves and know how important positive feedback is for young people.”
Asking Graham why he thinks it’s important to give back and work with young people, he said, “For young people it is a crucial time in their lives, from the age of eight to their mid-teens you can influence them.
“If you go out onto the streets and speak to a lot of young people they will say that there’s nothing for them to do. There are a lot of organisations out there doing some really great work and improving the lives of youngsters, the police cadets is just one of many things they can get involved in. There’s never an excuse that there’s nothing to do.
“Hopefully as instructors we can influence the cadets into a way of thinking and they will go on to a brighter future.
Two of the Police Cadets that Graham works with speak about the contributions Graham gives to their group
“We accept that the cadets are not all going to become police officers but if we can open their minds to different values and ways to speak to people and accept other people’s opinions then hopefully they will go on and have good jobs and be a good part of society.”
Volunteers are a really valued part of the Humberside Police family, they help us in all sorts of different ways, both in the community and in our offices supporting behind the scenes.
Volunteering is a really good way for people who can’t or don’t want to commit to a job with the emergency services to be able to gain experience for future work or to use their own valuable experience for the benefit of others.
Graham volunteers around six to eight hours a week which includes preparation for the cadet sessions, which takes around four hours, and the sessions themselves are for two hours each Wednesday evening. The preparation is done at home with a cup of tea!
When asked what Graham gets out of volunteering he said, “It’s nice to get the respect from the cadets, we have a real good understanding and it’s nice when the cadets will confide in you and talk to you about their school work and to see happy smiley faces.
“Occasionally you get one coming along with the grumps and it’s probably something to do with school or home and hopefully we can help. It’s just like having your own kids really, I’m just like a father to them.
“We run a mixed group of cadets and we can always do with extra help. Sometimes if our PCSOs are available they help out with the sessions but we could always do with more volunteers, if possible a woman as the group is mixed and if the girls have a problem then they may want to speak to a female, I am a grandad figure but sometimes they might want to speak to a younger woman.”
After 40 years as a police constable Graham would recommend working with the cadets or returning to volunteer after retirement, “I think volunteering is a good idea because you have all the knowledge when you retire and it’s a cut-off point and you either waste all your knowledge or you bring it back and you pass it around.
“If you pass your knowledge around you keep yourself fresh and you keep yourself up-to-date with any new legislation and it keeps you mentally active.
“There are plenty of opportunities to join us, we’d like to have more volunteers from the East Riding so if anyone wants to join us or any of the other volunteering organisations you’d be very welcome.
“People should never be in a position to say they have nothing to do. I can work it around my holidays and try and arrange things for weekends whenever I can.
“When people get to their golden years that your mental ability is what you need to keep going, this type of work gives my mind a real challenge and with the cadets you get the physical side of things too!
“Volunteering for the cadets’ scheme is not only giving back to young people and society it’s keeping me both mentally and physically active too.”
On behalf of Humberside Police we want to thank Graham, not only for his 40 years of dedication to policing but to his continued public service as a volunteer.
Could you be a Community Safety Volunteer for the emergency services? To find out more about volunteering click on this link: https://www.humberside.police.uk/become-community-safety-volunteer
To find out more about the Police Cadets: https://www.humberside.police.uk/police-cadets