Police Federation

National Volunteers Week 2023

Today is the start of National Volunteers Week. Volunteers play a major role in police forces across the England and Wales. Special constables, police volunteers and police cadets give their free time to serve the community and make a difference

1 June 2023


Volunteering in our police force can be traced back to 1831 when the first batch of special constables were introduced by the Special Constables Act. Special constables are fully warranted officers who support all major policing operations in the same way as full-time officers.

Many special constables have other jobs and bring invaluable transferable skills to police forces. There were 8,545 special constables in England and Wales in the year ending 31 March 2022 who volunteered more than 2,500,000 policing hours equating to over £61 million worth of policing time.

However, special constables are not the only ones who volunteer to support our police forces in their spare time. Police Support Volunteers (PSV) play an indispensable role in supporting our country’s policing. Wide-ranging roles and responsibilities are undertaken by PSVs, alongside their day-to-day lives, to support the thin blue line.

PSVs were introduced in 1992 and have become an integral part of the UK’s policing family. In the year ending 31 March 2022, there were 7,981 PSVs serving communities in England and Wales.

PSVs’ roles and responsibilities range from general administration to working on criminal investigations to vehicle maintenance. Unlike special constables, they are not required to work for a minimum number of hours. Volunteer coordinators work with PSVs to ensure they have the maximum exposure and impact. Each police force advertises roles that require volunteer support and they also create roles for individuals with desirable skills and experiences.

The third group of volunteers who stand shoulder-to-shoulder with full-time police officers, special constables and PSVs are Volunteer Police Cadets (VPCs). Police cadets were introduced in 1948 and consist of citizens in the age group of 13 to 18 years.

Some forces offer a junior cadet scheme for 10- to 13-year-olds. VPCs devote their time to assisting forces at events and low-risk police operations. Cadets meet weekly and are led by police officers, staff and PSVs. Cadets develop leadership skills by undertaking social action projects in their local communities with an expectation to volunteer three hours per month. Cadets learn drills, police powers and procedures, and first aid. Cadets support major events around the country including, marathons, carnivals, concerts, remembrance Sunday services and armed forces day parades.

Volunteers truly are an inseparable part of our country’s policing. Their presence brings to policing a host of unique skills and invaluable experiences for our forces to learn from.

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