Police Federation

The special connection - Specials Weekend 2023

To celebrate Specials Weekend we got in touch with a few familiar faces to discuss their time as Special Constables.

4 June 2023


To celebrate Specials Weekend we got in touch with a few familiar faces to discuss their time as Special Constables.

This weekend was Specials Weekend, thousands of special constables across England and Wales gave their time to serve their communities. Special constables play an integral part in British policing, undertaking a variety of roles on the frontline. Several National Board and National Council Members served as special constables before joining as full-time officers. We got in touch with Luke Mitchell, Hertfordshire Police Federation Chair and Former Special Constable to find out more.

When asked why he wanted to become a special Luke said: “I was always committed to joining the police, it was the only job I wanted to do. When I was 18 a good friend of mind had already joined and encouraged me to join. I still felt very young and perhaps not ready to join full time and wanted to gain the experience. From 13 years old I started to volunteer for the police, I was part of ‘The Youth Crime Prevention Panel’, I suppose it was much like the cadets, it was here that I met a lot of great police officers and staff who helped me on my journey into policing. I was blessed to have such good people around me who genuinely wanted to help me achieve my aim of becoming a police officer.”

When asked what he felt he gained from being a special Luke said “Because I’m dyslexic I knew becoming a police officer would be a challenge for me, while I was a good street copper, I struggled with paperwork. Being a special first allowed me to form good relationships with other officers so I was well supported. I honestly feel had I not had that 12 months as a special I may not have made it through my probation. When I came back to my area after my training as a full time officer I was already skilled in lots of the things others were still learning, this afforded me the time to work on my paperwork, statements and files. Policing has vastly changed over the last 20 years and I’m pleased to see that those that may struggle with dyslexia are afforded extra support in terms of a laptop or other reasonable adjustments.”

During his tenure as a special constable Luke gained a huge wealth of experience and reflected on his fondest memories of serving as a special. “I remember working with a huge amount of volunteers who gave up so much of their time to help police their community, we had a huge range of people doing their bit, some keen to move into policing full time, others just wanting to give back, some of the specials I worked with at the time had committed 30 plus years to policing which is just incredible. I was proud to be policing my hometown of Watford and doing my bit to help people.”

Luke is a keen advocate for the special constabulary and as chair of the Hertfordshire Police Federation branch which recently welcomed the addition of special constables to the Police Federation of England and Wales with open arms. “Being a special is a really rewarding role, the huge range of roles afforded to specials now is vast. It gives you self-worth, a feeling you’re doing something valued and in support of others. Not only that, but you get a chance to see the reality of policing, the sheer hard work put in daily by police officers, it’ll dispel the constant negative press the police get. It will make you a better person, more confident and give you so much experience that can’t be obtained in any other role. While you might not want to join up full time, the experience you get from policing will give you that edge in any job you may go for.”

Luke is just one of many PFEW National Board and National Council members who started their careers as specials.  Region 2 National Board representative Richard Murray served as a special constable for four years before joining as a full-time officer. “Following my service in the Royal Navy, I set a path in a new direction, what better way to plan a future in policing than by becoming a Special Constable.

After four years’ Service with Hampshire Police, I can honestly say it was the best experience I had. This drove me to pursue a full time career, Joining Cleveland Police and I have never looked back”.

We also spoke to Al Proud, Federation Representative with Essex Police. He said: “I joined Essex Police as a Special in 1993. Policing was a family career path but at the time I had a good job in the City of London, it was a risk to give it all up on a whim, I knew how tough physically and mentally it was as a Police officer. I started at Canvey Island in Essex and on my first duty was involved in a violent confrontation where my regular colleague and I got assaulted. From that night, I was "adopted" by the shift, and I would only go on when they were on, and it got to the stage where they would contact me if they were understaffed.

“They taught me basic investigations, statement taking and dealing with straight forward interviews and file preparation. After several failed attempts at joining, I started full time with Essex Police in April 2000. Thanks to all the hard work and quite often patience showed to me by those on shift I was very prepared for training school at Ashford in Kent and my 10 weeks tutorship.

“As a result of the way I was treated as a Special I have always tried to give the same back to the fantastic, hardworking specials we have at my station now, which was recognised by the Force in 2022 where my shift was awarded Specials Shift of the Year. I’m very happy that Specials are now being admitted to PFEW as they all take the same risks as us regulars and need the same protection as we are afforded.

“I do feel that Specials deserve a protected position on every board in the country as otherwise the Special Constabulary will still feel like second class citizens in the organisation rather than the important officers that they are. We as the Police are finally seeing Specials not as volunteers but as part time officers in the way that the Military see the Territorial Army, which for me, has been a long time coming.

I enjoyed every moment of being a Special and would say to anyone that you really do get so much out of it if you put in the effort.”

Hampshire Police Federation Branch Secretary, Sergeant Garry Smith, also reached out to us to share a newspaper clipping from his time as a special (pictured below)

Many of our members have served have previously served as special constables including our National Chair, Steve Hartshorn. Special constables have played an integral role in policing in England and Wales for over 190 years and continue to support operational policing on a daily basis. Last year we welcomed special constables to the Police Federation of England and Wales offering them the same support and representation as our regular members. We would like to extend our immense thanks to all who volunteer their time to support policing across England and Wales.

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