Special Sergeant Niyi OpaleyeA rare award

A dedicated and long-serving member of Kent Police’s Special Constabulary has been awarded The King’s Police Medal.

For 25 years Special Sergeant Niyi Opaleye has served the people of Dartford on a voluntary basis whilst also working full-time as a scientist.

Instantly recognisable to many members of the community who frequently see him patrolling the town on foot or bicycle, S/Sgt Opaleye is only the second ever Special to have been recognised for his contribution to policing with The King’s Police Medal (KPM).

He said: ‘When I first joined Kent Police I never really expected anything like this. The people in the street always say thank you when I’ve helped them and my colleagues always say thank you when I’ve done a good job, but it really means a lot that those who nominated me for The King’s Police Medal thought to show their gratitude in this way.

‘I chose a part of policing that is front-facing and my main role is that of a neighbourhood beat officer, so if something happens in the town centre whilst I’m on patrol then I’ll just go and deal with it. People know who I am, they like to speak to me and I like to show the human side of policing as much as I can. I think people generally appreciate that traditional type of police work, and I thoroughly enjoy it.

‘After 25 years, nowadays people know me by name and will come to me directly for help and advice. For example, I might get asked to speak to someone’s child if they’re worried about them falling in with the wrong crowd, and I’m always happy to do it. Preventing crime in the first place is the ultimate goal.’

The King’s Police Medal is awarded by His Majesty The King as part of his New Year and Birthday Honours lists and recognises those who have achieved a specially distinguished record in policing.

S/Sgt Opaleye, who is a 53-year-old married father of two, said:

‘I originally joined Kent Special Constabulary because I wanted to serve the community. I wanted a bit of adventure and to do something different whilst studying, and policing gave me that.

‘I get a lot of fulfilment in helping people. When you break up a fight, make an arrest or seize a knife from someone then you have potentially saved someone’s life and it really makes you want to carry on performing the role.

‘Some of the things I see really hurt my heart, such as incidents of domestic abuse when children are present. If I can help to improve their lives and keep them safe then I know I am making a difference and will continue to do so. Kent is a wonderful place to volunteer as a Special, and I would encourage anyone to think about it. We get the best training, the best equipment, and it’s a police force that cares about you and about the public.’

Kent Police Chief Constable Tim Smith said:

‘I am extremely pleased that Niyi’s contribution to policing the county over the last 25 years has been recognised in His Majesty The King’s Birthday Honours List.

‘He has become a real fixture of neighbourhood policing in Dartford, a very friendly and familiar face to officers and the public alike. He is a dedicated and professional police officer who is always prepared to go further and do more to serve a town and a community he so clearly loves – and one who does that unpaid, as a volunteer.

‘Kent Special Constabulary is acknowledged as the best and the most professional in the country, and S/Sgt Opaleye is a great example of why in Kent volunteer does not mean amateur. I’m very proud of our Specials, and I’m extremely proud of Niyi on being awarded this incredible honour.’

Kent Special Constabulary Chief Officer, Gavin McKinnon OBE, said:

‘Kent Police really values and prioritises neighbourhood policing – it is at the heart of everything we do.

‘S/Sgt Opaleye is highly specialist and experienced in this crucial area and has an incredible track record of tackling criminals, supporting victims and ensuring he is visible and accessible to local people. He listens to them, and acts on their concerns.

‘He could be described as a traditional ‘old fashioned British Bobby’ and he’s a role model for how you build trust and confidence with those we serve. I also think you would be hard pressed to meet a nicer, more genuine guy.’

Special constables take part in frontline police work and in Kent they have opportunities to specialise that are not available in any other police force. They wear the same uniform, carry the same equipment and hold the same power of arrest as regular officers. 

Kent Special Constabulary was the first in the UK to receive the highest award in volunteering, The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

Visit the Kent Police website if you are interested in applying to join.

By Ed

©2024 Hawkinge Gazette       -       The Hawkinge Gazette is not responsible for the content of external sites