Lancashire Police is changing how it recruits volunteer special constables to put an emphasis on “quality rather than quantity”.
A meeting of Chorley Council’s liaison committee heard that the force was now focussing its efforts across the whole county on ensuring specials - who are unpaid - are fully engaged with the role.
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“Traditionally, we have been recruiting heavily for specials, but then not holding on to them for very long,” Temporary Chief Inspector Gary Crowe said.
“So we are now looking at how best to retain them and are also working on a weeding process. We expect a certain number of hours from special constables, but we weren’t getting that from a few of them.
“In the short term, that means a net loss in terms of the numbers of individual specials - but the overall hours worked and the level of commitment is actually going up. We are now focussing on quality rather than quantity,” he added.
At the end of March 2018, there were 347 special constables volunteering their services in Lancashire.
Councillors praised specials for providing a police presence at events such as Remembrance Day services. The meeting heard that, without them, many such events could not be attended by the force.
Lancashire is also beginning to increase the responsibility of the volunteers by deploying them to football matches and events where “there is a slightly higher risk of public order offences”, Temp Ch Insp Crowe said.
Once special constables have undergone a period of training, they wear the same uniform - and have the same powers - as regular officers. Many of them with have ‘day jobs’, around which they fit in their voluntary role on the beat.
A nationwide recruitment programme claims that special constables will “learn more about life and human nature than most people will ever see”.
Temp Ch Insp Crowe stressed the difference between specials and the ‘community champions’ promoted by the Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner.
“That scheme is like ‘neighbourhood watch plus’ - but the volunteers do go out on patrol and are not just working from their living room.
The county’s specials are co-ordinated from Lancashire Police headquarters in Hutton, but are based across the force’s three divisions.
COULD YOU BE A SPECIAL CONSTABLE?
You must be over 18 and there is no maximum age limit.
You should be reasonably fit and in good health.
There are no minimum height requirements
You do not need formal qualifications, but will have to pass written tests.
Convictions or cautions are likely to make you ineligible - but it will depend on the exact nature of the offence.