Why did you become a police support volunteer? The role chose me. In 2009, I found out that three local police officers were learning British Sign Language (BSL) and I asked if I could meet them to help them get some practice with a friendly deaf person. Things took off from there and I now volunteer for varying amounts of hours each month.
What skills do you bring to the role and what does your work involve? The role I provide is to provide professional support to Herts Police ‘PLOD’, which stands for ‘Police Link Officers for the Deaf’. The support is varied and I try to help break down the barriers of communication between police and the deaf community and improve access to police services.
The skills I bring are my life experience as a deaf person who uses British Sign Language, along with my professional experience and qualifications as a BSL teacher and deaf awareness trainer. I also have long-term experience in using Microsoft Office.
What have you gained from being a volunteer? It has been a genuine education to work with police officers and find out what their jobs are really like. They have some very interesting stories because they meet such a range of people from all walks of life, often at moments of great stress.
What is the reality of volunteering like compared to what you had expected? I was so pleased to be able to make a difference, and contribute on a professional level. With the PLOD team, I felt valued and appreciated.
I was surprised and delighted to find that the police have a terrific sense of humour about their job, and they are also the most helpful and kind people you could ever hope to meet. They are trained and encouraged to be helpful. Many of them join because they want to help people.
What is your proudest achievement as a volunteer? I am extremely proud of the Online Deaf Awareness package we produced for police officers, in association with a charity called Signature, which promotes better communication between deaf and hearing people. This was a real labour of love and represents many hundreds of hours of voluntary work by the police officers in the PLOD team and myself. This work was to help police officers better understand the needs of the deaf community and to be able to communicate better with them.
I’m also proud of the way I have been able to help ensure that police processes are accessible and suitable for deaf people. For instance my input led to a change in the ways in which deaf people can contact the police for non-urgent issues and changes to booking-in procedures in custody centres. The Constabulary has been praised by the deaf community because of these changes and other forces have approached them for best practice advice.
What is the best thing about volunteering? The camaraderie. The PLOD team and I always have a good laugh when we get together.
What’s the biggest challenge? To keep PLOD going under the current austerity regime, when police resources are so finite and demand on the Constabulary is so great.
What advice would you give to someone considering volunteering for the police? Go for it. Try every opportunity that offers itself and keep an open mind.