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Fedster

Force which spent £250k on specials recruitment sees numbers fall sharply

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Fedster

PCC ordered force to have 900 volunteer officers – but nearly 300 have been removed since he left office.

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A celebratory picture issued in August 2015 featuring former PCC Adam Simmonds and Chief Constable Simon Edens, marking the force having 500 specials. In January 2017 it has 438

Specials numbers have dropped by nearly 40 per cent at a force which spent £250,000 in an effort to have 900 of the officers on its books.

Former Northamptonshire PCC Adam Simmonds imposed the target number for specials recruitment while he was in office.

In a bid to achieve this he outsourced work to recruitment firm Manpower, having them chase the target right up until he stood down as PCC in May.

Specials numbers peaked at 722 in March 2016 as a result of this, but have now dropped to 438.

Stephen Mold, his successor in the PCC post, abolished the arbitrary target last May.

Supt Chris Hillery, head of local policing at the force, said in a statement: “A number of specials resigned in 2016 and we were very pleased to welcome some who joined the force as full-time officers. However, for others, their personal circumstances had changed and they were no longer able to commit to regular duties.”

He added the force has been contacting those who had not been active in the last six months to see if they wanted to stay on, which led to a number being taken off the books.

“Our special constables remain an important part of our workforce and we now have 438 volunteer officers who complete regular tours of duty and make a highly valued contribution to our operational activities,” Supt Hillery added.

The PCC-driven policy was the subject of disquiet among some in the force, and HMIC criticised it for bringing in too many specials too quickly.

But Mr Simmonds, speaking to PoliceOracle.com last year, claimed: "The amount of money […] [£250,000] isn't a lot for what we were getting out of it and what we have got out of it: which is hundreds of thousands of more hours and more people engaged in policing and more opportunities for people to reduce crime.”

Former officer Justin Brown, who toyed with standing for the PCC job himself described the spending as “utterly incredible, utterly wasteful” and labelled the 900-target as being politically driven “as opposed to an operational need”.

Essex PCC Roger Hirst and Gloucestershire PCC Martin Surl have both recently made similar pledges, telling their respective forces to double the number of specials.

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Zulu 22

Taking on Specials does not strengthen the Force or save money. No matter how well meaning the Specials may be. They are there to compliment not replace. IMHO

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Indiana Jones
5 hours ago, Zulu 22 said:

Taking on Specials does not strengthen the Force or save money. No matter how well meaning the Specials may be. They are there to compliment not replace. IMHO

Agree that SCs compliment, not replace regs. But I don't agree that they don't strengthen the force or save it money.

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Zulu 22

Well in Northants they lost 40% of their Specials. That certainly is not value for money.

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Sherlock

The Special Constabulary could be a huge benefit to every force if it's looked at pragmatically. These pledges of figures plucked out of thin air are doomed to fail before the sentence is finished.

The police force as a whole (Regular and Special) is haemorrhaging officers at an incredible rate nationally. To fill the gaps, Chief officers are relying on the Special Constabulary and get as many applications and feet through the door as is possible - and at an incredible cost.

This is unnecessary. Why are PCC's and Chiefs hell-bent on quantity over quality? Northampton are reported to have had 500 Special Constables in August 2015. Why would the PCC or Simon Edens want to have 900, when you could increase the quality output of those 500?

With a peak of 722 in March 2016, only less than a year later having dropped to 438, something is obviously seriously wrong and the path has gone awry - and that is simply poor management, the management of others' expectations and absence of a sound plan.


-Sherlock
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Mr_Charlie

You have to love arbitrary targets.

They always work...Oh wait.

I wonder how extensive this private companies role was in the selection and vetting of the various SC's they were entrusted to recruit. It's quite a troubling precedent.

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Policey_Man

The thing we forget though, is that a lot of those Specials are becoming regular PCs. There must be some value in ex-Specials becoming Police Constables, with their training and knowledge and experience of policing already?

Interesting that they don't actually touch on the Met's figures - Boris set a target of 10,000, but they never got there.  The MSC went from 2,494 in April 2008 to 5,752 in March 2012 and since that peak the number has continued to fall, quite rapidly some might say, to 2,753 as of December 2016. That has been with a pretty much consistent recruitment of MSC officers throughout.... so who knows what the Met's turnover is like!

Edited by Policey_Man

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Indiana Jones
9 hours ago, Zulu 22 said:

Well in Northants they lost 40% of their Specials. That certainly is not value for money.

Ah i see, it was Northants specific.

Do we know how much work that 40% did before they left? Perhaps it actually represents good value for money.

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Richhamdo

Re the 40% "wastage" and whether or not it is "wastage" and cost effective etc to recruit them in the first place. At the risk of repeating myself in another place a while ago  I will say again that people mostly apply to join the specials as a means into the regulars/support. For at least the last twenty five years anyway, ten out of a twelve intake in our force wanted  to join the regulars, or be a support officer or they did where I am.It was often the case that some who joined the specials  didn't realise what they were letting themselves into and left after about a couple of years. They were told how it was incidentally at the induction sessions, the arduous training they had to do, the awkward hours etc etc, even asked if they had the spare time to take it on . Our force has  a very good person in charge of this sort of thing, what she doesn't know about the specials and retention isnt worth knowing so I know that they were told but it made no difference, they just carried on with their application. But why wouldn't they,what did they have to lose? They had nothing to lose and everything to gain, I would have done it myself if I had wanted to join the regulars,I joined up for other reasons.

Why do specials not continue to plough their furrow and decide to turn back?. Work and life balance are  often cited as being responsible, but there were other reasons. I knew what they were and the leaving specials knew also but they didn't like to say. Whether or not you subscribe to Maslows  theory of "hierarchy of   needs"I dont know, but I do. I have noticed it at work in the special constabulary for donkeys years.

Do these people who insist on hundreds and hundreds of specials ensure firstly that the neccesary infrastructure is in place in the follow up after they have been sworn in, that when the new specials arrive at their home station, there is going to be sufficient tutors to look after them and give encouragement etc. Hmmmmmm, that's all I can say. Rich.   Ps, Incidently, I said White Rabbits first thing this morning,(three times) so I'm ok for good luck for this month :D.

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Rocket

I've seen it mentioned a lot that Special numbers are dropping because lots of Specials are moving on to become Regulars - as if this is something new.

Well it isn't new, this has always happened but the way numbers are dropping means that there are other factors in play.

Is it the Essex PCC that wants to double the number of Specials and has earmarked a lot of money to do it?

Specials are volunteers and need to be valued and not treated as a statistic like they currently are.

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Zulu 22
1 hour ago, Indiana Jones said:

Ah i see, it was Northants specific.

Do we know how much work that 40% did before they left? Perhaps it actually represents good value for money.

If you say so. Strange that Policey-Man reports very similar in the Met. Specials do go on to join as regulars because most forces recruit them as a free work force. The Specials however have tried to join in the normal way to find it blocked, unless they become Specials first.

 

7 hours ago, Mr_Charlie said:

You have to love arbitrary targets.

They always work...Oh wait.

I wonder how extensive this private companies role was in the selection and vetting of the various SC's they were entrusted to recruit. It's quite a troubling precedent.

QA good question and I would also ask, How can you conduct an applicant interview on the telephone. There is no interaction in that system.

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Mazza

You'd be better targeting hours, not numbers of specials. Forces that target a number of specials are forgetting that you can't guarantee the hours of a special like you can with a regular. For example adding an extra 100 regular officers will add 4000 hours a week. But an extra 100 specials? No idea.

Quality, not quantity. Specials in Scotland need to do 180 hours a year to qualify for bounty, so if you assume everyone does their 180 hours (which isn't true at all), then there are loads of specials that are doing the work of two or three Specials (myself included) because they've racked up their hours far more than what is required.


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Mazza
QA good question and I would also ask, How can you conduct an applicant interview on the telephone. There is no interaction in that system.


Pretty much every single recruitment process in every private sector organisation will use a phone interview as a first stage screen. You can easily conduct a competency-based telephone interview.


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Mr_Charlie

Well indeed. A physical interview is a good means of deducing someone's character and ability to react on the spot and under pressure, which I'd say is pretty much the very essence of being a Police Officer!

To think they could be participating in the interview whilst wearing jogging bottoms or pyjama's...Unthinkable...Unforgivable :o

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Cathedral Bobby

Specials do generally provide good value for money. The principal idea of having them is so that in a national emergency there are a number of trained officers who can be called upon, not just to augment but take over so roles, thereby allowing regulars to respond to whatever the emergency is. In maintaining the readiness of the reserve specials are meant to train and carry out routine duties, augmenting local policing, often at busy times. Are specials ever used to do more than just augment; well I am sure they do. They also provide a good grounding for potential regulars. There is less chance of an officer leaving the service after training having found the policing service less to their taste than first imagined. A special, who has worn the t-shirt, is less likely to leave, probably having a more realistic view of what they will find and the expectations placed upon them. I have met a number of specials who are excellent cops, naturally gifted, keen, inquisitive, and team workers who would shame the knowledge held my some regulars; and yet have no desire to be a regular. Colleagues are right it is about quality not quantity. Having some arbitrary number pulled out of a hat based gives an impression of failure before you start if the target is not realistic. There are not tens of thousands of people who want to be part time bobbies, finishing work and then going off to do police duties. Most people who want to become police officers join as regulars. Sometimes those who are unsuccessful put that dream out of their head and move on. Rarely have I come across candidates who have failed to get in the regulars wanting to become specials, although I know it does happen. In some forces, younger applicants especially were told to spend some time in the specials before reapplying for the regulars. I am unsure if this is still the case.

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