West Silvertown police officer honoured after work on gangs and Grenfell Tower fire
PUBLISHED: 17:00 20 January 2020
A police officer who transformed his life after getting mixed up in the wrong crowd, has won a national award for his work on gangs and the Grenfell Tower disaster.
Sgt Ben Forbes, from West Silvertown, followed the wrong crowd as a youngster, fighting and getting excluded from school.
But aged 15 his life took a turn for the better after the police, Newham Council and staff at The Cumberland School in Plaistow teamed up to find him work at Royal Victoria Dock Watersports Centre.
Back on track, he went on to fulfil an ambition to become a police officer, inspired by his love of police drama series, The Bill, which was often filmed in Ben's street.
"Entering the Met was quite challenging for me because of the community I was part of. No one in the family had done it before," he said.
"But I wanted to help change how we deal with gangs."
The 30-year-old started with Newham police before transferring to Barking and Dagenham. In that time, Ben realised that just enforcing the law was not enough to save youngsters from gangs.
"It's like putting a plaster on an arterial bleed. [Youngsters] keep coming back [to gangs], going through the circle of violence," Ben said.
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Ben's approach centred on getting sports clubs, church and community groups involved in prevention.
His commitment to a public health model saw doors slammed in his face by troubled youngsters reluctant to engage with police.
But his story inspired them to take the same leap.
On his British Citizen Award, Ben said: "It's humbling and a huge surprise, but it's the young people who took the risk. They should get the award for coming out of risky situations.
"I want young people to see there are opportunities for change."
Besides his gangs work, the accolade recognises Ben's role as a bridge between police and the community following the Grenfell Tower fire which claimed 72 lives in 2017.
This included making sure victims could access support 24/7.
"It was a passion to speak to people to see what they needed. It was a massive role which will stay with me for the rest of my life," he said.
Ben is to receive a medal of honour on January 23 at a Palace of Westminster ceremony.