Avon and Somerset Police have launched a new recruitment campaign, asking people to join them and begin a second career as a volunteer police officer.
Volunteer police officers – or Special Constables, as they are known, provide an important link between their community and the police.
The force says it recognises the benefit that different life experiences and perspectives can bring to policing and are particularly interested in receiving applications from people from an ethnic minority background, and women.
Andy Bennett QPM, Specials Chief Officer, explains the role: “Special constables hold the same powers as regular police officers and work alongside them to prevent and detect crime, wearing identical uniform and issued with the same personal safety equipment and communication devices. There are many of our specials who report that the role has changed their lives and we are very grateful to them for their ongoing commitment.”
“This campaign is important – we need more people to join us, and we hope by sharing the stories of the some of the amazing people already serving as volunteer officers that more people will consider it. We want to highlight to lots of different people that it could be possible in their situation. The role provides a unique opportunity for people to spend some of their spare time making a true and significant difference in their communities.”
The campaign highlights four volunteer police officers who say the role has changed their lives. One of those is Malado, a Special Constable in East Bristol.
Malado explained why he decided to join as a volunteer, “I moved from Senegal, West Africa to England in 2008 to create a better life for myself. Moving here from a non-English speaking country wasn’t easy, but I was given the help and support I needed to get where I am today. I am so happy and proud to give back to my community and country. Whenever I put the uniform on, I feel proud. I love what I do. It makes me happy to give back and to go home knowing I’ve made a difference. I look forward to every duty.”
He went on to explain how he makes volunteering work with his day-job as a long-distance lorry driver, “Working a shift pattern in my day-job also helps, as my days off are not set. My colleagues are really understanding and often help me out with swapping shifts so I can carry out my volunteering duties. They are all very proud and supportive of what I do.”
Caroline volunteers in Yeovil and had never thought of being a police officer but when some friends suggested it, she realised it was the perfect volunteering opportunity for her. “I wanted to help people and I felt that I could make a difference. I love the fact that in this role, there is the chance to see people genuinely benefit from the support and assistance we provide.”
Caroline has a really busy life combining work, lots of physical activity, caring for her elderly father, socialising, and fulfilling her role as a special constable. Her military experience, and teaching career has helped her develop very good organisational skills and her employer allows her to adjust her working hours occasionally to support policing activities. Her paid work has always required her to be a people person, and to be friendly but firm when needed, the perfect skills for a police officer.
“When I joined the Special Constabulary, I was a bit worried about my age, as I’m in my fifties, but I certainly wasn’t the oldest on my training course! We all got on really well and I felt like I was one of the team. I’m fit, healthy and very active and I knew that I would be capable of the physical aspects of the role. After training, I joined my team at the police station and was immediately accepted for who I am. I really needn’t have worried; everyone here is lovely; they are grateful for the time I can give and the life experiences I have. I have felt so supported while completing my training and learning the role with my team at the station.”
Roger is a Special Chief Inspector in Bridgwater, “In my twelve years as a Special Constable there’s one event which really stands out. I’d been on duty at a South Somerset carnival and my shift finished at 11pm when a report of a missing person came through.”
“I volunteered to stay on and be part of a search party with a regular officer. The missing person had last been seen riding a bicycle. I had a searchlight and was looking over hedges and in ditches.”
“At about 3am, I spotted some handlebars, which led me to the missing person, who was in the ditch, alive but very cold. That night I knew I had helped save someone’s life.”
John is a Special Inspector in Bristol. As a member of cabin crew in his full-time day-job, John describes being well accustomed to using de-escalation as his first line of defence, “mid Atlantic, if something happens there is no one coming to help you – you are your colleagues must deal with that. I feel that my experience complements my police officer role well and allows me to put my skills to good use. Being a volunteer Special Inspector is my way of giving back to society.”
For anyone interested in finding out more or joining as a volunteer police officer, visit www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/specials