Seeing a 21-year-old police officer tracking down the block chasing criminals isn’t a sight you see every day, but Constable Jason Benjamin isn’t cut from your ordinary cloth. At only 21 years old, Jason from Plumstead in Cape Town has joined the fight against crime.
“I’ve been in service for a year and a half. I started training at the end of 2014 at the Phillipi South African Police Service (SAPS) Academy. Towards the end of last year I joined at the Diep River SAPS [in the Southern Suburbs]” explains Jason.
Jason admits that becoming a police officer isn’t something he always wanted.
“When I was in matric I had very big goals for myself. I was a focused student at school and I believed that I would become an engineer. But due to circumstances I couldn’t afford my studies. My mother is a single parent and we had some financial difficulties.
“Therefore my dream didn’t go the direction that I wanted it to be, I ended up in retail after matric. It depressed me to see all my friends going to university and furthering their studies while I was stuck in retail.”
As if that wasn’t hard enough, Jason’s future became even more blurry.
“What really hit me hard was when my mother got hospitalised. She was in and out of hospital and they eventually discovered she had a rare cancer, parathyroid. I didn’t know which direction to go in life. My mother inspired me with the stories of her police days and I took it seriously. God kept her here on earth just as an example.”
Jason’s mother, like the true police officer she is, released herself from all life’s chains and handcuffs.
“She fought through all that and she’s now back at work and I’m really grateful for that. Without a doubt my mother is my role model. I believed God had a purpose for my life. Policing was the last thing on my mind. I saw the post in the newspaper and I just applied. There was a long process to go through. I saw God’s hand moving as most people didn’t make it through, yet I did!” says Jason, who is a born again Christian.
Jason’s now giving his dreams a chase and will stop at no red traffic lights.
“I began a year’s training at college and I really focused. In time I developed a love for what I’m doing, especially when I heard all the real life stories of policeman and women. I wanted to be a part of it and I know this is where I’m supposed to be because I know I’m here for a purpose. Fighting crime has really inspired me to stay in this job that I’m in. It’s a real honour to actually be fighting crime in the country. I’m looking to study, to get higher ranks and continue fighting crime in the country”
He adds that the hours that officers put in can be exhausting.
“The hardest part of my job would be the hours. A police officer’s job is never really done. There are days you work 17 to 18 hours trying to chase after suspects or trying to complete the work you’ve already started. Also the fact that it is quite dangerous, you risk your life daily.”
“(Laughs) I don’t think there’s such a thing as a typical day of a police officer. The community believes a police official should be everything. From murder scenes – you have to be a psychologist to people, you have to do crime scenes, sometimes you’re chasing suspects on foot, sometimes you’re an ambulance, some days you’re just in the office doing paperwork, other days you’re a traffic cop. No two days are the same.”
However, he says the recognition they get is reward enough.
“The most rewarding part of my job, I would say, is the gratitude that you get from the community. It is quite rewarding knowing that you’re making a difference in the area. The satisfaction that you’re contributing to helping the people sleep safe at night. Just the fact that you’re helping the community is rewarding.”
Jason may not be a judge but he gives a few sentences of advice to younger people.
“If you willing to work hard and you want to make a difference in the community then you’ve made the right choice because there’s never a dull moment in the police. You have to be willing to work hard. For any person leaving school or anyone that does not have a job, if you have dreams – it is very important to keep those dreams. But sometimes God has his own plans for you. Just keep on pushing forward and God will lead the way.”
This interview was conducted by our intern blogger Tamica Mopp and written by Ndibulele Sotondoshe