I wrote this back in November and this was originally published on https://cccupolicingandcj.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/a-bsc-in-service-policing-service-discusses-what-it-is-like-to-be-a-special/ Reading back there are definitely a few bits I would've redrafted! However all criticism welcome
Special. Are you? Could you?
Easter will bring the fourth anniversary of when I walked through the hallowed gates of Hendon Police Training College to begin training as a Special Constable for the Metropolitan Police Service. Many shifts and some unbelievable experiences later this blog is a welcome opportunity to reflect on what has been a whirlwind of a journey so far and perhaps provide some insight to those who are considering embarking on voluntary warranted service. Holding the Office of Constable is a privilege that I struggle to equate to anything else in life. It can be incredibly nerve wracking, but also exciting and rewarding in a multitude of different ways.
“And maybe remind the few, if ill of us they speak,
That we are all that stands, between the monsters and the weak.”
– Michael Marks
The Special Constabulary can trace its beginnings to before the time of Sir Peel and have a rich history of serving the community. Charged with the same duties, responsibilities and role as a regular officer, Special Constables have the same powers and equipment and are required to complete a minimum of two shifts per month supporting force priorities. This could range from high visibility patrol in night time economy areas, or assisting an often short staffed neighbourhood or response team.
Often confused with Community Support Officers, Specials are not paid, but perform key roles such as arresting suspects. Even now, some of my friends are still shocked when they see handcuffs and a baton on my belt, let alone finding out that I arrest people! There aren’t many roles where after about five weeks of training you could be attending the home of a male wanted for a serious domestic assault, who has strong links to gangs and firearms, for your first arrest as I did, and all in your spare time.
People join for different reasons, some use it to boost their CV, for many it was and still is in some forces the only route into regular service and are therefore using it as a stepping stone into policing as a career. Others still, known as career specials have no aspiration to join full time, but it is the opportunity to serve the community alongside their normal day job. Whether you want to join the regular service or not, the Special Constabulary is a fantastic way to ‘try before you buy’. For those considering a career in policing, for example those studying at university or currently working full time it enables you to experience the world of policing to enable you to make an informed decision about your future without having to change job. However regardless of intention, so long as you fulfil the eligibility criteria set out by the College of Policing and the force you are applying to and apply with good intent, all are welcome and it is a challenge that I couldn’t recommend enough.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”
– Edmund Burke
As a Special Constable, you will encounter the best and worst of society on a frequent basis. Although events such as the recent public order in Lambeth show, that it is not without its risks. During my time I’ve been punched, kicked, spat on, had surgery after being assaulted, been on crutches twice and been called every name under the sun and some I didn’t even know existed! Not to mention countless threats made against my life and those that I care about; not a role for the faint of heart but it is something you soon learn to take in your stride.
Some of the highlights have been having the opportunity to make a difference and sometimes had a real impact on someone else’s life. Having done so in the knowledge that had you not been there it would’ve taken longer for officers to attend; potentially meaning that a particular incident could have escalated during that time, or in some cases they wouldn’t have attended at all due to an ever expanding demand combined with a continual reduction in resources. More and more forces are depending on specials out of necessity and with that comes a greater expectation and the willingness for regular colleagues to work with you and assist with your development.
As I look back at what has been a busy, but short service so far, I will never forget racing across London to save a teenage girl stood on the edge of a multi-story car park who saw jumping to end her life as the only option she had left. From the panic of getting closer units to attend as quickly as possible, to the sheer emotional relief of being notified she had been found and the sadness as you looked into the eyes of someone so empty, sad and young as you arranged for them to be assessed for treatment at the local mental health unit. Policing can be an emotional roller coaster and it was an honour to be able to help, but she is one in a long line of faces and stories I will never forget.
When I first joined, a friend asked me what an average shift consisted of; a few years later, I am still trying to answer that question. Whether you are supporting a traffic operation focussing on road safety, or arranging for the coroner to collect a body you’ve had to inspect after someone’s family member has passed away or looking for a vulnerable missing child who has wandered off there is such variety you will always be learning and experiencing something new. Upon joining, you are provided with a portfolio detailing a wide range of competencies that you are trained to do and then supported by tutors to demonstrate out on the street until you are signed off as having achieved the capability to patrol independently. Once you have completed this there is then the opportunity to progress whether that is to specialise with a particular unit or tutor newer officers or progress through the rank structure to manage other volunteers. Having spent the last year working on fraud and interviewing suspects, I now split my time between working on the night time economy and with an emergency response and patrol team.
If you ever thought, you could do the right thing under pressure, keep your head whilst those around you lose theirs, be that support for those who are struggling and need help at their most troubled time then being a Special Constable could be for you. It is an opportunity like no other to experience the world of policing and intricacies of upholding the law. Special. Are you? Could you?
For details of the College of Policing eligibility criteria please visit: www.recruit.college.police.uk/Special/Pages/Eligible.aspx
For any queries regarding individual forces contact the respective force HR department, or you can visit this forum for informal advice about applying, and more information about being a special: www.police.community