18 September 2023
David Holmes says a change in the law to allow Special Constables to join the Police Federation was a vital step in him becoming the first volunteer on the Force to receive Taser training.
He said the move last year to allow Specials to become Federation members - and with it the chance to receive the same level of support and representation as regular officers - opened up a range of opportunities for volunteers.
For David, who works mainly on traffic policing, one of those opportunities was to take part in an intensive four-day course to allow him to carry a Taser.
He said: “When the rules changed and we were able to be federated for the first time in our history, it opened up a number of opportunities.
“Before that, traditionally risk-based elements of policing were generally closed to us because of the level of support that was needed through the Federation.
“It opened the door to being federated and I snapped up that opportunity straight away. The Fed is something I think is really important.
“So once having done that and joined the Federation, it opened up other doors, and one of those was Taser.”
Special Constable David Holmes
David will celebrate his seventh anniversary as a Special Constable in November. He combines the role with a career as a project manager and consultant in engineering.
And he said during his policing career there have been a number of incidents when taser could have helped to de-escalate an incident.
“In the work I’ve been doing, and in the last four years in traffic, quite often I’m single crewed and can be anywhere in the county,” he said.
“I can think of three occasions when merely having the taser and its presence would, arguably, have altered the way those particular jobs went.
“We got the result we wanted but it would have been less difficult having the right equipment to do it.”
David admitted he found the taser training difficult but ultimately rewarding.
“It’s not a give-me,” he said. “The training environment was clearly set to a national standard. The Force makes no excuses about the need to measure up.
“Whether it be Specials or regular officers, there are a number of people who don’t make it through the course, for various reasons, and are invited to come back and do a bit more.
“I found it difficult. It’s a lot to do. When we got to the final day, I didn’t do that well. I had issues on reciting the incident in the correct legal framework, which apparently is a common problem.
“I was given some pointers and things to develop. I spent all weekend boring everyone around me to test me, and I went back the following week.
“So to come out of the back of it was really good news and to get issued with my permit was fantastic.”
He added: “The Taser unit I can’t speak highly enough of them. The level of input is brilliant.
“Their standards, without exception, are very high. I was really impressed by it. Quite rightly it was strict, but I enjoyed it.”
Now he’s encouraging other Specials to join the Federation so they can improve their skills and training to branch out into other areas of policing.
“Absolutely, 100 per cent yes I’d encourage Specials to become members,” he said. “I did a bit of research and put a paper into seniors which showed what the possibilities of a Special Constable can be.
“Derbyshire is a little bit behind the curve, but the reality is there are specialist units across the country that are doing some amazing work.
“We have traffic units entirely staffed by Specials with a regular sergeant leadership. There are others engaged in CID and investigation work, particularly data and digital where they can use their external expertise to assist.
“We’ve got drone pilots, you name it, the opportunities are endless if the force you’re in is minded to spend that time and investment on you.”
Inspired by a family member, David always wanted to be a police officer. But he was also drawn to engineering, and it was his love of motorbikes that ultimately helped him make the decision about his career.
“I had a choice growing up,” he explained. “My direction was engineering for a variety of reasons, but I wanted to be a copper, it’s just what I wanted to do.
“I had family members who were in the police in a different force. One was a motorcycle copper, and a bit of a rocker and a biker as well. He was everything that I aspired to be, really.
“He was a real influence but the reality was that engineering is something I’m well suited to and, frankly, it paid better at the time, so it gave me an opportunity to buy a motorcycle quicker than if I’d gone down the policing route!”
David eventually fulfilled his ambition of being a cop when he joined Derbyshire Police as a Special in 2016, again thanks to another police officer.
“Inspector John Troup and I have been friends for years and I watched his journey from Specials to regular to now he’s an inspector,” he said.
“He said to me that I should do the Specials thing, that it’s the best of both worlds, that you want to be a copper, you can get some training and learn what it’s all about. So I did.”
Now David combines his work in engineering with volunteering up to 50 hours a month for Derbyshire Police.
“It’s worked for me,” he said. “I make time for around 50 hours a month I’ve taken on a lot of training. I get some volunteering days support from the company. The rest of it I make work.
“It doesn’t take long to accumulate 40 or 50 hours in a month when you’ve applied a few days here and there.
“It does work and I still have time for family and leisure as well as my professional life.”
David is a huge advocate of the role of Special Constables, and encouraged people thinking of being a police volunteer to go for it.
He said: “While the SC role is still a job, technically, and it’s still difficult at times, for me it’s really rewarding.
There’s an army of people who want to moan about things, levels of crime and this, that and the other, and I often get asked why I want to do that for free?
“Well, why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to do something practical with your time and, at the same time get a load of training, apply the real-world skills you’ve got in your professional life and, equally, take away policing skills back to your personal world as well?
He added: “If anyone is so minded for public duty, they’ve got a desire for the county we live in to be a better place and they’re prepared to go out of their comfort zone, then the rewards are there.
“You’ve got to be of the right mindset. You’ve got to have a passion for helping people in times of emergency and distress. You’ve got to be comfortable with some of the difficulties that society can throw at you.
“But the rewards are simple. You get to meet really good colleagues, you get a different level of support internally from the colleagues you embed yourself with. Once you gain the trust and camaraderie it’s a really good place to be.
“It isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, there have been difficult times but you’ve just got to be prepared for that.
“But if you have a passion for it, there’s something you can do about it and you can be a part of it.”