Over the last month, I’ve read various views and opinions on the role of the Special Constabulary in the Home Secretary’s Brave New World of Policing (TM), from potential PCCs, Regular Police Officers and from politicians. It’s been suggested by some PCC candidates, and by some in government, that SCs could somehow fill in the gaps caused by cuts, and therefore maintain the ‘Front-Line’ (whatever that may be…). “Outrageous!” cry others – SCs haven’t got the level of experience and skills to be a replacement for Regular Officers in the complex world of Policing. But has anybody asked what members of the Special Constabulary think?
People join the Specials for many reasons. Some join because they’ve seen too much television, and think every duty they do will be like an episode of a cop show, screaming around in cars with the blues-&-two’s on, like some kind of crazy law-enforcement theme-park ride. Others join because it looks good on their CV, and have little intention of actually doing anything worthwhile. These two categories tend not to last, fortunately. Some join as they have the intention of joining ‘The Job’ full-time, and want a taste first, or want some experience to stand them in good stead. And others join with no intention of joining the job full-time (eg. those who would end up taking a pay cut from their ‘civvy’ job), or are unable to, for reasons such as eyesight, but want to make a difference and help anyway.
I joined partly out of curiosity – my mom’s friend’s daughter had been an SC and said it was great. I’ll have some of that, I thought – within six months of being sworn in, I realised I wanted to do it as a career. Unfortunately, crap eyesight (not an issue when I joined as an SC) has meant that I can’t apply to the Regulars (can’t even have laser-surgery, as my corneas are too thin; that was a kick in the balls after I’d saved up for it!). So, I’ve resigned myself to being a ‘Career Special’, which is something I’ve been doing for almost 16 years now, usually doing two duties per week, plus special events. And I love it.
But, going back to the original topic, as a Special, do I think I could be a replacement and step in to fill the gaps caused by the current government’s cuts? Of course I don’t. And I don’t want to be used that way either. And I’m pretty sure that the majority of Specials would agree with me. Any SC that disagrees is failing to acknowledge the massive difference in the skill-sets and experience between a Regular and a Special, and is foolish for doing so. Even ‘experienced’ Specials (I’d like to consider myself in this category) have nowhere near the training and skills to be a viable substitute for a Regular Officer. I accept this, as do my colleagues that understand the role of an SC.
Yes, there are some whose confidence may outstrip their abilities, are unreliable, or who are genuinely not suited to the job, whether part-time or full-time. They aren’t in the majority. Please don’t judge us all on the basis of these people, just as the media so often makes sweeping judgements on the Police based on the actions of a minority. There are so many more of us who joined for genuine reasons, who want to support, help and augment the Regular Service, and who do a good job, within our capabilities. We’re the ones who do turn up, who get involved with the Neighbourhood Teams, who arrange duties with Response Teams, and who, generally, don’t fuck up. We don’t want to be used to fill in the gaps – we want to be used as an extra resource, to assist and help a fully-functioning Police Service.
We’re not the enemy. We’re Specials, members of the public who have decided to get involved as we want to assist.
We’re only here to help.