An Inverness cop has been recognised for his community dedication after helping secure internet access for a school pupil during lockdown, taking an isolated man out to lunch and fixing a single mum’s bicycle.
Community beat officer Brad O’Neill was sent to the pupil’s home after their teachers became concerned about their lack of engagement with online education while schools were closed due to the Covid pandemic.
But when he learned the child was unable to take part in lessons because the family had no internet access, PC O’Neill sprung into action, liaising with a charity to get free wifi quickly installed in the home.
The intervention is just one of many that have caught the attention of PC O’Neill’s colleagues and superiors, securing him a nomination for a Scottish Police Federation (SPF) community commitment award.
PC O’Neill, who works in Merkinch and South Kessock, known locally as ‘The Ferry’, is also being recognised for his strong relationship-building in the area.
The past 18 months have seen him perform a number of non-policing tasks within the community including repairing a bicycle that was a single mum’s only form of transport and taking a man with learning difficulties, who had become withdrawn following an assault, out to lunch to help build his confidence.
‘Selfless acts that go well beyond his duty’
His commitment to connecting with people, coupled with his dedication to providing a visible on-street presence in the area, has also led to the detection of some serious crimes including a rape and serious assault.
SPF representative Ross Polworth said: “In this short time PC O’Neill has made a positive impact within the community and improved the area’s relationship with Police Scotland.
“He has been involved in a number of initiatives to help the area and individuals that go well beyond his role.
“In addition to the examples provided, PC O’Neill has also assisted and carried out numerous other selfless acts that go well beyond his duty and are worthy of recognition.”
Speaking after the nomination, which sees him up against two other officers at the awards ceremony on Thursday, PC O’Neill said it was a pleasure to serve the community of Merkinch and South Kessock, and that the posting has been both rewarding and educational.
‘Leaving my ego on the Black Bridge’
“It was a real eye-opener to the struggles of the day-to-day life of most of the residents of South Kessock,” he said.
The dedicated officer explained that he was able to achieve the level of connection he had with residents by “leaving my ego on the Black Bridge, lowering my guard and opening my heart to the needs of the community”.
He added: “Once you understand, you can empathise and tailor your response to their needs.”
The approach appears to be one that is working and PC O’Neill has every intention of continuing with his people-focused policing, setting high standards for what he expects from his own work.
“Every interaction I do, at the forefront of my mind is ‘what can I deliver that is above and beyond anything they have experienced from a police officer before?'” he said.