Posted: Tuesday 22nd July 2014
During my year with the OPCC I have travelled to every corner of Avon and Somerset, met some inspiring people and dealt with some uncomfortable situations in a way I didn’t know I was capable of. I even thought I was being sent overseas when sent to a meeting with the Police and Crime Commissioner to a place called Westonzoyland.
It’s impossible to list all the opportunities I have been given this year in such few words. My first official outings with Sue were spent with the Black Police Association at St Paul’s Carnival and Easton Community Centre. Immediately I was exposed to and learning about communities I had perhaps previously been ignorant of. This sort of engagement not only improved my confidence but helped me build relations with a wide range of people in and out of the organisation.
One of my main responsibilities has been to set up and attend the PCC’s weekly ‘out and about days.’ During these days I have done everything from sitting in on a radio interview in a shed at Glastonbury FM to visiting a refuge for women who have been victims of domestic violence. I have heard some devastating stories but also witnessed life changing work achieved by ordinary members of the community.
A highlight for me has been visits to flood victims in Moorland. The television coverage didn’t do the level of devastation justice. I was lucky enough to shadow Sue on visits to victim’s homes as well as pay a visit to the flood relief centre.Some people had put their lives on hold and volunteered their time to help; these stories of human kindness will stick with me forever.
I have been so lucky to have a part in organising the PCC Pride Award scheme and the Neighbourhood Policing Awards. I have met so many remarkable people whom without knowing it I had previously taken for granted. These people dedicate their lives to making communities of Avon and Somerset better places to live. From survivors of the worst crimes imaginable who have turned their lives around and are helping others who are vulnerable, to police staff committed to making the patch a safer place. During the Neighbourhood Policing Awards I assisted in the filming of special nominations to be played as winners collected their awards. I was struck by one case involving a young boy who tragically died in Burnham on Sea a couple of years ago. The support that this family had received from their local PCSO was unimaginable. Their nomination described how ‘a stranger in uniform became a friend and at times their only hope.’
I have encountered some difficult situations from wrestling microphones off angry members of the audience at public forums to sitting in Yate library with the PCC only for one person to turn up not with an issue but to ask for Sue’s autograph. I have carried a lot of boxes and dragged a gazebo half way across Somerset.
Many of my friends completing student placements with other organisations have spoken of the day to day drudgery of the same mundane office jobs. I was warned every day is different and I have done my fair share of envelope stuffing nothing prepared me for the variety of work, level of responsibility and trust the OPCC installed in me.
I have found the placement challenging, fascinating and rewarding. I feel I have gained many skills that will hopefully stay with me. I couldn’t have asked for more from my placement year and I thank all of OPCC for giving me the opportunity to be part of their team.
By Toby Osborne, Aged 20.
Student Placement from the University of the West of England