So forces are now increasing the amount of Special Police Officers….. Police Officer numbers are dropping and in order to deliver the same service we need to increase the number of Volunteers. Just how wrong is that?
I started my career as a Special Constable, and I know the pressures of both Specials and Regulars. I used to come in and want to go out with the Regulars, some were receptive, some were seeing us as replacements – and we didn’t see ourselves as ‘policing on the cheap’, but we weren’t, but perhaps this isn’t so much the case?
Front line officer numbers are decreasing and Specials numbers are increasing and recruitment is on the rise. Now there is a definite sense of ‘replacement’ or ‘Policing on the cheap’. We need our Specials to enhance the service we offer, but we don’t need them to be outnumbering or replacing.
I do admire those officers who join as Specials, who although really enjoy doing it and have no interest in joining the regulars, and I do speak to a few who are in this position. I also believe that those who want to join the regulars should certainly join the Specials to see if they think it is the job for them, as a career in the Police Service isn’t for everyone.
Being a Special Constable gives you an insight in to what a regular do, but there is still a deficit in what they can do, and this is due to a lack of training and resources for them. There is also the difficulty of asking so little time of them, and of course, they cannot make people do more than the obligatory 4 hours a week, however, if you have those who do not turn up regularly and do the training required then why are we still putting them out there in a position of responsibility? It’s unprofessional and it’s also in long run going to make work for the regular officers if the specials are not doing the right job in the first place. Some will come in and pair up with regulars, attend briefings, work with local operations, and there are those who will ‘skulk’ in, grab keys, go out together, and not call up to help, but will only do what they want to do, and this is where, as a disciplined service, they still need to follow the rules, paid or not
We do not need policing on the cheap, we need Specials who are committed and loyal to working hard, and there are a lot that do, but I am just concerned that we are increasing the amount of volunteers in the firing line, and will end up taking in numbers rather than quality, which in turn is just going to cause problems for the Service in the long run.