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Head of Volunteering for Surrey Police wins Contribution to Policing Award

5 December 2023

A Surrey Police staff member who has attracted hundreds of volunteers to join the force has won the Contribution to Policing Award at the inaugural Surrey Police Federation Recognition Awards. 

Helen Hartley is Head of Volunteering for Surrey Police, a role that involves growing three key areas – Volunteer Police Cadets, Police Support Volunteers and Special Constables. Helen is supported by a very small team and manages shrinking budgets - yet she has continued to increase volunteer numbers and bring them into key areas in the police where they add huge value, many of them applying their expertise from previous careers. 

In 2016, Helen started Surrey Police’s cadet scheme for teenagers. It has been a huge success,  with six units now spread across the force – Helen aims to get it to 11, one in every borough.  

She said: “A lot of our cadets come from vulnerable backgrounds, so they have this opportunity to do something different, and quite often that really brings them out of their shell and helps build their confidence and skills. That’s one of my proudest achievements, starting that up.” 

Quite a few cadets have gone on to become police officers or stayed on as cadet leaders. “It’s very positive to see the journey of some of these young people into policing, and it’s been great to support them,” said Helen. 

Helen always tailors the support to the volunteers she’s working with. After all, the needs of a 13-year-old cadet are totally different to a 30-year-old Special Constable or an 88-year-old Police Support Volunteer. 

In addition, Helen has turned around attitudes towards Police Support Volunteers, increasing both the numbers of active volunteers and the roles they fill. She’s attracted retired senior officers back as volunteers, encouraging them to give up their time for free to help share their expertise in investigations, which hugely benefits the teams they are embedded in, freeing up officers and staff to do other vital work. 

Helen said: “When we place volunteers in roles and they have a great impact on that particular policing team, that’s really rewarding. Although I’ve never been a police officer, I know how busy police officers are, and so I see it as my role to make their lives easier so that they can focus on the victims who need them and the crimes that need investigating. Simple things like sending out community updates or going to community events on their behalf, maintaining their vehicles, it makes a difference.”  

Helen has also started a work experience initiative. She said: “Students come and spend a week with us and we give them a really varied experience of the police. They have an attachment day, but also they get to spend time with detectives, our public order trainers, our conflict trainers, they get to do the police fitness test and experience how to de-escalate conflict. Then, of course, once they finish work experience we encourage them to join us in longer-term roles as cadets, Special Constables or volunteers.” 

She continued: “I think there’s a place for everybody in policing – not everybody can become a police officer, maybe. But it’s really positive to be able to offer people the opportunity to experience policing.” 

Helen works extremely hard in her role, often giving up her evenings to make sure the safeguarding ratios are maintained within the Cadet scheme, for instance, yet she never complains. 

On receiving the Federation Recognition Award, Helen said: “It’s nice to be recognised in my force. Sometimes you can question what you’re doing and actually this does make a difference. So I’m very pleased.”  

Surrey Police Federation Chair Darren Pemble said: “Helen is quick to champion those around her and organises awards and recognition ceremonies for all of our volunteers. But is always in the background herself and she never receives any formal recognition.  

“That is until now! 

“This award offers an incredible opportunity to recognise her positive contribution to policing. Volunteers add huge value to their teams, and Surrey Police as a whole. Without Helen, we wouldn’t have that number of volunteers. Many congratulations.” 

Helen will attend the Surrey Police Federation Recognition Awards on Thursday 7 December. 

The lead sponsor for the Awards is Metfriendly. 

Also sponsoring are the National Police Healthcare Scheme, MJR Solicitors, Flint House Rehabilitation, Serve and Protect Credit Union, Police Mutual, No1 Copperpot Credit Union, Philip Williams Insurance, Hempsons, Uniform Mortgages, Police Mortgages, Reynolds Dawson, the Surrey PCC’s Office and DAC Beachcroft.   

The hashtag for the event is #SurreyFedBravery.