Hello! My name is Alice Corbally and I am 24 years old. I currently volunteer with North Yorkshire Police as a role-player and as a police support volunteer with the Neurodiversity Partnership Hub. I am currently a second-year PhD student at the University of Sheffield, studying policing. Prior to this, I completed my BA (Hons) in Counselling, Coaching and Mentoring at York St John University (3-year undergraduate degree) and my MSc in Psychology at Leeds Beckett University (1-year postgraduate degree). I have been a volunteer with North Yorkshire Police since the second year of my undergraduate degree (4 years in total).
Why did you decide to start volunteering? Why did you choose to volunteer with the police?
Since starting my undergraduate degree, I have been interested in the criminal justice system as a distinct area of the public sector. During the second year of my undergraduate degree, I had to complete compulsory placements, which I choose to complete in the criminal justice system. I completed placements in primary crime prevention (family intervention), prison befriending (which I still do) and the Youth Offending Team. I decided that, having volunteered with a number of crime agencies, I would like to experience a new challenge, one which was not a statutory requirement of my course. I took to Google to look for criminal justice volunteering opportunities in York, where I was studying, and openings for police volunteers popped up – it’s fair to say that I didn’t hesitate to apply!
What has been your favourite experience of volunteering?
One of my favourite experiences of my volunteering role within North Yorkshire Police is the exciting and dynamic role-playing scenarios that I get invited to attend. These are usually training events for student officers or refreshers for more experienced officers. If I’m not being shot at by armed firearms officers, I’m playing the mother of a missing child in distress or a suspect who has stolen a mobile phone. Of course, this role requires a dramatic flair (I always knew 10 years of amateur dramatics as a child would come in useful!), but seeing how officers use laws, policies and procedures to support members of the public really does offer a unique way of understanding the police, one that appreciates all the problems they face in relation to keeping the public safe. Another aspect of the volunteer role that is fantastic is all the amazing officers and staff that you meet along the way, not to mention all the other lovely volunteers who always go the extra mile to make you feel welcome. The best experiences are usually those where you feel so included and involved, as opposed to the enjoyment of the content of the exercise (which is often a bonus!)
What do you think you have gained from volunteering? Do you think volunteering has helped you develop your skills for a future career?
I have gained tremendous amounts from volunteering with North Yorkshire Police. I believe that I wouldn’t be in the position I am currently in without these opportunities. Firstly, I would say that I have gained a great amount of confidence from meeting new, interesting people who share similar interests and engaging in new challenges and experiences, particularly ones that most people never get to have. Furthermore, I have gained exclusive knowledge about the ways the police work, which has not only contributed to my studies, but also to how I talk to others about the police and how this understanding and knowledge can be shared in a way that helps and supports public perspectives of the police. Lastly, I feel such satisfaction knowing that I can give something back to the police, who protect the public tirelessly and often without thanks. It often feels an great honour to be part of the policing family.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to volunteer for the police?
Do it! If you have an interest in policing, are studying criminology, sociology or another related subject or simply if you want to do something a bit different, volunteering with the police is such a rewarding and inclusive experience. I’ve never felt so part of something.
Has volunteering impacted upon your life as a student? Would you recommend volunteering to other students?
Absolutely! Volunteering with the police can be done as much or as little as you want. Although you need to ensure that you are doing a regular amount of volunteering, this can be flexible around your studies. As an undergraduate, particularly around dissertation time, I didn’t do as much volunteering, whereas in the summer I did lots. This was similar to when I did my postgraduate degree. Now, doing my PhD, I’m volunteering approximately 2-3 times a month (more if I can), but that’s usually enough to stay involved and active (however I would say this depends on your role). My view is that if volunteering with the police was invasive or disruption to my life as a student, I wouldn’t have continued to do it for so long. I do lots of other voluntary and extra-curricular work and still manage to regularly get involved with my police volunteering duties and do my PhD.
What is your future goal when you finish studying? Do you hope to keep volunteering in the future?
This is a difficult question for a PhD student, as the future is often uncertain! Personally, I would love to continue to do research with the police (my work focuses on neurodiversity within policing and how police-community partnerships can promote inclusion). Whether this research means working with the police as staff or within universities alongside the police, is all for the future to decide! I do hope that I can continue to do a bit of volunteering with the police, particularly role-playing, so that I can continue to see all the friends I have made over the past 4 years. Post-PhD dependent – bring on another 4 years, and many more to come!