31 May 2019
Special Constables volunteer to work alongside their full-time equivalents and for the most part are expected to fulfil the responsibilities of their full-time colleagues, whilst being subjected to the same disciplinary code.
And yet despite standing shoulder to shoulder on the frontline of policing with their full-time colleagues, who are supported by the Federation, they have little if any representation.
When police officer numbers have been cut by over 20,000 since 2008 the number of Special Constables has also dropped by close to 34%, from 18,000 in 2012, down to 12,000 today.
Now, you would have thought that the government’s response to falling full-time officer numbers would have been to openly encourage, as governments tend to do in such circumstances, people to volunteer to make up the shortfall in officer numbers. There have been schemes introduced that have sought to increase the number of Special Constables and these are to be welcomed. Officers appreciate the help that such volunteers bring to the police service as do the majority of the public.
However, the reality is that work pressures placed on our members, and policing as a whole, has made those considering volunteering as a Special Constable think twice.
Given the rise in attacks on police officers who would really want to volunteer for a role that exposes them to such violence, even if it is to serve the community in which they live?
For some the commitment to serve as Special Constables is strong and those that do volunteer to work alongside our members we recognise the valuable contribution, help and assistance that they provide.
It does however beg two questions to be asked:
When required to do so the Federation will represent Specials who may find themselves involved in operational situations and incidents for which they require support, but this currently sits outside of the Federation’s remit, set by the Home Office. For the sake of clarity and consistency it makes sense that the Federation is able to not only represent Specials but also to provide them with a recognised forum to which their issues and concerns can be heard. To mark the centenary of the Federation’s founding it would be great to give something back to those who volunteer to work in the police service. Our National Chair, John Apter, who himself was a Special Constable, has made it a priority of his to gain this representation for Specials, if that’s what they want.
So during Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June) we applaud and thank all who volunteer, in whatever role, but especially those extra-ordinary individuals who choose to become Special Constables – your contribution and hard-work is truly recognised by the Federation.