A POLICE sergeant is throwing away his handcuffs and getting into his sleeping bag to sleep rough for a night.

PS Peter Neale, based at St Aldate’s police station, has decided to ditch the comfort of his bed to not only raise money for a homelessness charity but to honour a promise he made to a previously homeless man.

Having patrolled the city often, he has seen the homelessness issue that the city faces and wants to help tackle the problem.

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Mr Neale, who is the neighbourhood sergeant for Oxford Central and North Neighbourhood Policing Team, set himself the challenge after a conversation with a man he had arrested.

He said: “A man that I had arrested who was homeless and who had suffered from drug abuse, went to rehab for six months. He was upset, of course, because he felt that six months was a long time, but I told him that if he goes, then I will do something for the homeless.

“I wanted to show him that I can do something for a short time that will make a big difference, just like he would by going to rehab.”

Mr Neale lost contact with the man and two years later stumbled across an opportunity to fund raise, called Sleep Out, which is taking place on March 16.

It is hosted by Homeless Oxfordshire and Aspire, two charities that are trying to combat the homelessness issue.

Although far from the reality of sleeping rough, the 47-year-old police officer along with other people who have fundraised, will have to sleep in a sleeping bag on a roll mat at Linacre College in Oxford.

He said: “I came across the fundraising event and thought this was it - this is the perfect opportunity to do something little but impactful."

He managed to find the previously homeless man - who is now living independently and no longer taking drugs - and told him about what he was going to do.

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The father of two said: “He was over the moon and he said this will not only teach me but make a big difference to someone. I want to show him that I can make a difference beyond my daily job role. It’s the icing on the cake.”

He does not know how many people will take part but said that if it is just him, he will still do it.

Mr Neal, who lives near Oxfordshire, said: "It is not all about the jackboot of policing – there’s more to it than that. I can do more than just my job and this is a chance for me to give something back.”

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The neighbourhood officer set a target of £200 to raise but has already exceeded that in just a week with £285 of donations after posting his advert on Thames Valley Police’s Twitter account.

He said: "Whatever is raised will make a difference to someone. Give what you can."

To donate, go to justgiving.com