This morning I read with interest the Blog of fellow Tweeter @inspjulietbravo titled Special Constabulary – Enhancement Or A Replacement? It was very interesting to see the honest views of the Special Constabulary from a regular officers point of view. Having read this I started thinking about the role and other peoples views of Specials so I decided that I would write about my own experiences and opinions.
The role of the Special has developed over the years. Years ago the Special would only be seen patrolling village fetes but today Specials are deployed on response teams, public order units, roads policing teams and many more. These methods of deployment in my opinion reflect the changes in the service and is no different to the Territorial Army where people join a Regiment that reflects their skills (e.g a Doctor joining the Medical Regiment). If someone possesses skills or they have an ACTIVE interest in developing in a area then why should the Police ignore this?
People join the Special Constabulary for many reasons which include wanting to put a little bit back into the community using their spare time and who are happy with their main day jobs. Over the last few years I have seen an explosion (and this is my personal situation) of people joining the Special Constabulary in order to progress to regular officer. External recruitment (e.g advertised to the general public) is now very rare. I know we have seen recent external recruitment post Olympics but prior to this their has been a freeze over several months.
I am not suggesting that every Special makes a good regular officer but what I do know is that the experience serving as a Special will provide no better grounding for a regular role. It will also assist people joining to get an insight wasting valuable recruitment and training departments time recruiting a regular who does not understand the role and then leaves as the role is not as they expected. I am sure during the current financial climate that this can only be a good thing to save money.
@inspjulietbravo spoke about Special Constabulary training and officers not getting enough street time to be able to perform the role properly. She also talks about this potentially creating more work for the regular officer if a job is not done right in the first place. This is a very interesting point that I would like to cover. I have policing experience outside of the Special Constabulary having worked on Volume Crime Investigation Teams, Custody, Front Office, Pcso, Sexual Offences Investigation Team (often assisting teams such as Child Protection and Major Crime) so am suitably experienced to write about this area.
As with regular officers Special Constabulary officers come from different backgrounds and have different abilities. I am quite fortunate to be able to attend an incident, make an arrest, secure the supporting evidence (statements etc), interview prisoners and build a file should it be necessary, however I appreciate that my Special Constabulary colleagues may not be as confident. After all they have not had the same level of training as I. That said I have had a number of incidents where a regular officer has asked ME for advice at a incident or when writing something up.
@inspjulietbravo does have a good point in regard to regular officers picking up the pieces of a incorrectly conducted enquiry. I myself have had to correct mistakes made by both Specials AND regular officers. I tutor people with different ability and learning style and to counteract the point made by the Inspector I drum into my students the following advice “IF YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW TO DO SOMETHING OR ARE UNSURE ASK FOR HELP”! There is no shame in asking for help and colleagues would rather assist to get the job done correctly rather than mop up afterwards. The point here being to increase learning and development and there is no shame in admitting you are unsure a procedure, after all even a regular will seek advise from a Sergeant, and a Sergeant will turn to an Inspector. Its what we do!
A point @inspjulietbravo mentions and I have witnessed myself many times is people booking on and “skulking out” without offering assistance with incidents. Personally there is simply no excuse for this and I will not even try to defend against this point. When you put that uniform on you are there to do a job. Specials may work in their free time and for no salary however this does not provide the luxury of picking and choosing what tasks your perform. You are a Constable end of! The only exception to this being if a officer does not possess the skill or knowledge to perform that task (but they would have said so rather than simply refusing or hiding). Personally I love being the first to get to a job and the day this feeling vanishes will be the day I resign.
Specials are here to compliment the regular officers and not to replace them. I will not go into finances and recruitment as that is another story however I will acknowledge how some regulars feel about increasing numbers of Specials compared to regulars. I have had many conversations about this and have listened to concerns of slipping standards, public image etc. The Special Constabulary are no threat to the service. Training will never be to the same standards as the regular officer and as such a Specials ability to conduct various tasks will differ. In many cases regular officers understand this however there are many that do not.
At the end of the day volunteer or paid we wear the same uniform, swear the same Oath and are open to the same risks out on the street. I close with a message to regular officers and Specials.
Specials – The Special Constabulary is what you make it. Training is understandably different to the regulars so seize every opportunity to develop yourself further. Ask questions, seek advice, do attachments (if allowed) and if you are unsure about something ASK!
Regulars – We are here to ASSIST not replace you! Work with us. Its a hard job out there and we want to help. Abilities vary so please don’t put us down if we are unsure about a procedure, where appropriate help us to get that understanding.
Thank you for reading and I am happy to discuss what I have spoken about.