Special Constables come from all walks of life: mechanics, doctors, managers, marketing directors, insurance brokers, mortgage advisers, criminal investigators, students, television presenters, teachers, musicians, to name just a few.

The profiles of Warwickshire Police Special Constables below highlight their experiences, their roles away from the police, and how volunteering benefits them and our communities.

After 13 years' service with Warwickshire Police, Special Chief Inspector Dave Watts retired from the force on 28 July 2017. Here, he looks back at his time in the Special Constabulary and how he came to volunteer.

"I was working in the automotive industry and the company I was with at the time was losing money. The shareholders set the management team the task of becoming profitable in four years. It was hard work but, once this had been achieved, I felt I needed to look for a different sort of challenge," he said.

"I had previously considered joining the Special Constabulary when I was working in Yorkshire. I wanted a role that took me out of my comfort zone, for both the physical and intellectual challenge, and something wholly different from my career in the automotive industry."

Dave joined Warwickshire Police Special Constabulary in 2003 and was based at Stratford-upon-Avon. While he found that the training was "exemplary", the HR systems good and the recruitment process acceptable, he experienced some early frustration with achieving his independence as a Special Constable.

He explained, "Once you attested, there was no formal process to get you to independence. But I was not going to fail. I got support from regular officers: the Response and Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs) were good at supporting me; they took me out with them as often as they could and I achieved my independence within 18 months."

Dave recalled memories of his first duties as a Special Constable, "My first tour of duty was at Global Gathering. We were given our brief and told that at a certain point the festival-goers would be released to enter the compound. When this happened it was like a tide of humanity coming at us. It was quite a memorable experience: I was on duty for ten hours, I had done nothing like that before and I certainly put myself outside my comfort zone.

"On my second tour of duty, I and some regular officers attended a street fight in Alcester. I didn't have a clue what to do. I got out of the vehicle wearing my uniform and people were asking me what to do. I drew on my common sense and my life experience and I thought to myself, 'This is a problem so how do I solve it? What support is available and how do I get it?'. It was all very confusing and chaotic initially, but I was helped by the regular officers and the other units that turned up."

As a Special Chief Inspector (SCI), what were his responsibilities and what were the challenges? Dave said: "I was responsible for two Special Inspectors, ten Special Sergeants and 90 Special Constables in South Warwickshire.

"In managing volunteers, one of the hardest things was to organise people who want to do something positive and do not want to sit in a police office while their regular crew mate does paperwork. However, sometimes you have to accept enthusiasm outweighs abilities. You need to consider how to keep motivation high and ensure officers act professionally, especially given their enthusiasm to get involved. What did I do to keep them motivated? I sought to present the team as a valued resource to the force and interact with regular officers as much as possible so their enthusiasm was used constructively. It was self-fulfilling - the more we worked with the regulars, the more they wanted to work with us.

"Another problem was managing volunteers over a distance, remotely. Often, I didn't see my management team for weeks on end. As a line manager, you need to walk the talk and demonstrate leadership from the front line yet also trust your team to do the right thing. I would make sure people knew when to turn up and what to do when they got there. And always said "thank you" in person and by email."

There was a pastoral side to this, too, as Dave acknowledged: "Volunteers have different motivations. For example, during the Shakespeare birthday event in 2016, less experienced Special Constables were put on points where they were actively used and they engaged with the public. They were given ownership of their patch and they valued the opportunity."

In his role as a SCI, what benefits did he get out of the role? "I had opportunities for continuous learning, developing management skills, professional development, satisfaction in serving the community and the satisfaction of working with the larger policing team in Warwickshire," Dave said.

Did he feel that the role of Special Constables was valued by the organisation? "Yes, they were. Senior officers let us run a lot of Specials-led operations. That demonstrated their trust in us. Ownership of a task is very important to development and satisfaction in the role, and as SCI, I tried to provide a service to regular officers. I worked to build the Special Constabulary as a resource, with a mix of independent and non-independent officers in each team, with a Special Sergeant managing about ten Special Constables. I recruited more sergeants, and deliberately created a team structure not so explicitly based on SNTs to create a broader resource for the south of the county," he said.

Dave cited the South Warwickshire Special Constabulary Priorities Team (the Specials Priorities Team) as an example of how you can develop a resource that can deal with targeted issues. "We achieved fantastic things with the Specials Priorities Team working with SNTs with demonstrable outcomes," he said.

He pointed out: "For National Specials Weekend 2017, we got three times as many people on duty for this year's event as we had in previous years, with full support from senior regular officers. When you get this sort of back-up you can achieve amazing things. There are now new opportunities to support Enhanced Policing Initiatives on Friday and Saturday nights in Leamington Spa. That's good news, but we always have to remember that Special Constables do not want to sit in a van or do foot patrols all the time. They want variety."

How did being a Special Constable assist you in your full-time role with Warwickshire Police? Dave believed that "It brought another world into focus: people who need help, people who have been sidelined by society, people in distress. You can reflect on the circumstances and use the learning to change the way you interact with the wider world."

Did members of the public have a better understanding of the role of Special Constables better compared to when he joined? "Members of the public don't make a distinction between regular officers and Special Constables," Dave said. "They see someone in a uniform and ask 'Are you going to sort me out?' or 'I'm in trouble - are you going to help?' It can be quite exciting, daunting and challenging. That's why people do it. But it can be distressing: you see people at their best and at their worst."

He sees that the challenges ahead as being the need to build on and develop the Special Constabulary so the force can make better use of them, that they are better integrated with regular officers, and that they are trained and prepared for new technology, such as the introduction of body worn cameras and Athena, the 'one-stop shop' to manage intelligence, investigation, case preparation and custody management which will cover over 70% of operational processes and practices.

What are the opportunities open to the Special Constabulary? "Give [Special Constables] ownership of operations, recruit more from Black and Minority Ethnic communities, and build the Special Constabulary as a resource but not just as an adjunct to the SNTs," were some of Dave's ideas for the development of Special Constables.

So, would Dave recommend that people volunteer to be Special Constables? "Yes, unequivocally. It will test you, it will challenge you, it will change you. You will be a more rounded individual as a consequence," argued Dave. "You'll come out of it a better person. You'll see the worst of people but at the end you will have helped someone. It is a huge achievement. So, 'yes', do it. But the support of your family or partner is important and will assist in what you can achieve. My wife has been amazing."

Neil is a Special Sergeant and the Safer Neighbourhood Team liaison for Warwick District. He has been with the Special Constabulary for more than four years and is based mainly at Leamington Spa.

Why did you join the Special Constabulary?

I had an incredibly intensive and time-consuming job and I realised that the job was taking over my life. So at the same time as changing jobs I wanted to do something productive with my spare time, rather than simply having it. I signed up for to be a school governor, which I did for three years, and also as an Special Constable, primarily really as it was something where I could learn a raft of new skills while taking me well out of my comfort zone. My line manager at the time still has not got over the shock...

What are your current responsibilities as a Special Constable?

I line manage a small group of Special Constables and have a couple going through probation at the moment. A lot of my time is spent on delivering training inputs and tutoring but I am also the community policing lead so I put on the events in this area for the Special Constabulary.

What is your role outside the Special Constabulary?

I am a guard with Cross Country Trains.

What benefits does being a serving Special Constable offer you?

I have met new people and made friends, but also in my spare time I am now doing something very rewarding - either in helping fellow Special Constables get the best out of themselves or also helping a very stretched force deliver their commitments. Selfishly the benefits are that I can drive a police car and also use kit like automatic number plate recognition and the roadside speed gun.

How does being a Special Constable benefit your role outside the Special Constabulary?

It is a useful one for me in my day job as it has taught me tolerance but also more how to deal better with the various types of customer we get on board trains, be they drunk, abusive or just plain intolerant.

Would you recommend that people volunteer for the Special Constabulary? And if so, why?

Without hesitation - it offers a dynamic and exciting volunteering option which you can get out just as much as you put in. Very few volunteering opportunities can you safely say you have no idea what will come your way while doing it. You can start off thinking that you'll be doing community engagement and actually end up dealing with vulnerable people at the worst moment of their life. Knowing you helped them is immeasurable. What is the highlight of your career so far in the Special Constabulary or what has been the oddest experience or most bizarre highlight you have had while you were on duty? Bizarre? That has to be the time I had to rescue a live male swan from the centre of Warwick and carry it over a mile through the town to a canal and then sit with it until it was recovered.

Ross is a Special Sergeant based at Greys Mallory, near Warwick.

Why did you join the Special Constabulary?

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IT Manager 

 

  • How has the Special Constabulary benefitted you, either in your work or personal life?

 

It has shown me different walks of life and a different side to life in general. 

 

  • What transferable skills has being a Special Constable given you?

 

Dealing with stressful situations, supervisory skills and in general life skills!

What’s the best thing about being a Special Constable? 

 

Being able to make a difference. 

John-Paul has served with Warwickshire Police Special Constabulary since January 2014. He is now a Special Sergeant based at Bedworth Police Station.

Why did you join the Special Constabulary?

I joined the Special Constabulary as I really enjoy working with the public and wanted to volunteer my time to something worthwhile and make a positive impact on my community. I get a buzz from being able to help people from all walks of life and to serve and protect the general public. I feel the police get unwarranted negativity from some members of society that do not understand the pressures and constraints an officer faces in his/her daily role, and if I can be part of changing that perception through positive policing and community interaction it will be for the good.

What are your current responsibilities as a Special Constable?

Planning, organising and monitoring the activities of Special Constables under my area of responsibility and providing effective leadership for the team. To assist the Special Inspector in driving the operational effectiveness of the Special Constabulary by delivering the leadership, support, development and motivation of Special Constables. Contributing to strategic development, maintaining standards and ensuring compliance with operational policies.

What is your role outside the Special Constabulary?

I am currently working as a Police Enquiry Officer for Warwickshire Police.

What benefits does being a serving Special Constable offer you?

Since serving as a Special Constable I have developed good leadership skills, communication skills and confidence in dealing with conflict. It also provides a greater understanding of general policing.

How does being a Special Constable benefit your role outside the Special Constabulary?

As above I have developed good leadership skills, communication skills and confidence in dealing with conflict situations and the skills to help control and resolve a conflict or potentially violent situation.

Would you recommend that people volunteer for the Special Constabulary?

Yes definitely: joining the Special Constabulary is hugely rewarding. You receive excellent training to enable you to do the job; the support level within the Special Constables and regular officers is amazing, And helping victims of crime, assisting members of the public, bringing offenders to justice and supporting the regular police leaves you with a great sense of achievement.

What is the highlight of your career so far in the Special Constabulary?

We were once called to assist in tracking down and detaining an escaped tiger one Saturday night. As you can imagine myself and my colleagues were a little apprehensive about this. As we made our way to the area information started trickling in that the tiger was well in drink and had ran off from a party after a verbal argument. We were then confronted with the escaped tiger in the road in front of us. It soon dawned on us that the escaped tiger was actually a drunk 16-year-old in a tiger onesie. In any case we safely captured the wild animal and took him home to his mum, where he was sent to bed without his supper.

Based at Rugby Police Station, Special Sergeant Ryan has served with Warwickshire Police since 2014.

Why did you join the Special Constabulary?

I joined Warwickshire Special Constabulary to further develop my own personal skills and to give something back to the community. The Special Constabulary have driven me to continue to chase my childhood dream of going full time and becoming a regular officer.

What are your current responsibilities as a Special Constable?

I am currently responsible as a sergeant for a team of nine Special Constables, some of which are independent and some are non-independent. It is my job to look after their every needs and organise shifts for them and I will personally mentor my team members. My area of expertise within policing is traffic. I have a keen eye for a suspect vehicle and usually a vehicle stop can lead into drugs and weapons seizures. I enjoy all aspects of policing but traffic is my passion and I hope to one day be a regular officer specialising in traffic on the Operational Policing Unit.

What is your role outside the Special Constabulary?

I am a Sales Adviser currently but I am seeking a police staff role while waiting to join the regulars.

What benefits does being a serving Special Constable offer you?

Being a Special Constable has given me an amazing amount of self-confidence and there is not any situation that I will feel unable to handle myself in. I have learnt new ways to approach problems and made a group of new friends who share the same interests. I have grown close to the regular reactive patrol units and sometimes work alongside them as well as with the Safer Neighbourhood Team at Rugby. Helping out wherever I can has earnt me respect from regular officers which is a great confidence booster.

Would you recommend that people volunteer for the Special Constabulary?

I would recommend the Special Constabulary to anyone looking to further develop their skills as an individual and I would recommend joining if they are looking to join the regulars. Policing is not for everyone and this is a perfect way of seeing if the job is for you.

What is the highlight of your career so far in the Special Constabulary?

I have many highlights to be proud of since being a Special Constable as I will regularly do 130 hours a month so there are plenty to choose from but in six months since January 2017 I have seized 57 vehicles in the Rugby area for reasons such as having no insurance or no road tax and obstructions. My highlight carrying out traffic duties would be an arrest of an Eastern European male wanted on a European arrest warrant from police in Poland. The male had been on the run from Polish Police for around ten years and I arrested him following stopping his vehicle for committing a traffic offence. He was flown to Poland the next day and charged for offences ranging from GBH and criminal damage to the value of £10,000. The bizarre moments have been plentiful but the one that tops the lot has to be a time where I stopped a vehicle and the driver was completely naked driving around randomly.

Ben is employed by Warwickshire Police as a call handler, working in the force control room, answering 999 calls and being the first point of contact for members of the public when they call the police. He also volunteers as a Special Constable.

How has the Special Constabulary benefited you, either in your work or personal life?

Being a Special Constable provided me with a heightened insight into the police service, and convinced me to apply for my current full-time role in the control room. In addition, being a Special Constable and working in the control room allows me to see both sides of dealing with incidents. 

What transferable skills has being a Special Constable given you?

Being a Special Constable has increased my capabilities to manage conflict and has taught me how to calm people down even in highly volatile situations. In addition, being a Special Constable helps me in my day job as I understand what police officers need to know when attending incidents.

What’s the best thing about being a Special Constable?

I believe the best thing is being able to be there for people when they are sometimes at their lowest and being that voice for change or just being that person whose there to help them; I love getting involved in every opportunity that presents itself and experiencing sides of life that I would never have experienced in my day job, and forming lifelong friendships in the process. It is a very rewarding role and I thoroughly enjoy every minute of it.

Jake is a Special Constable, working from Greys Mallory traffic base, who started doing Special Constabulary duties in December 2016.

Why did you join the Special Constabulary?

I joined as I wanted to join the police in a few years' time; this is giving me a good insight and experience of the job.

What are your current responsibilities as a Special Constable?

I am still on phase two of my training, so no areas of specialism just yet.

What is your role outside the Special Constabulary?

Just started up on my own business outside of the force. What benefits does being a serving Special Constable offer you? (Eg skills, experience.) It's a good experience and I'm learning a whole new set of skills.

How does being a Special Constable benefit your role outside the Special Constabulary?

Builds confidence and good team-working skills.

Would you recommend that people volunteer for the Special Constabulary? And if so, why?

If it's an interest or potentially a job you want to do I would recommend to do as it will give you a head start and what to expect.

What is the highlight of your career so far in the Special Constabulary?

The best part of the job is going to response 999 calls, while on the way trying to eat your dinner you just bought, on top of going through a plan of what to do when we arrive, and never knowing what to expect.

Working out of Leamington Spa, James has served with Warwickshire Police Special Constabulary for 14 months.

Why did you join the Special Constabulary?

I had always wanted to do something for the blue light services and initially looked into firefighting. I then figured that this was notoriously hard to get into and therefore considered policing. After speaking with a friend of mine who himself became a Special Constable, he advised me to look into the role of being a Special Constable myself. After telling me what he got involved in, I figured I would give it a go.

What are your current responsibilities as a Special Constable?

I'm trained on the Intoximeter at Custody where persons who are over the alcohol limit while driving go to when we need to take an evidential reading that will be used in court. This is a highly useful tool, as not many Special Constable or paid Police Constables are trained in the use on this machine.

What is your role outside the Special Constabulary?

I'm a full-time administrator for a company. I now have something incredibly exciting to look forward to at the end of every week which really makes the time fly by.

What benefits does being a serving Special Constable offer you?

Being a Special Constable really enables you to see how the police work in conjunction with one another. I had many thoughts as to how police might deal with crimes and it is so different to what I thought. I have also found that I am actually a really patient person and I've been able to hone this skill even more. My communication skills have also increased with me being able to diffuse situations both in my police role and outside of it.

How does being a Special Constable benefit your role outside the Special Constabulary?

Confidence. I think it's a great way to make you realise how confident a person you are. I'm not shy to admit that I wasn't terribly confident on my first ever shift. But now I've been doing this for a little while, I now know that I had the ability to do a role like this for a very long time.

Would you recommend that people volunteer for the Special Constabulary? And if so, why?

I would absolutely encourage anyone who is currently thinking about joining the police to seriously consider becoming a Special Constable. It gives you a great insight to how the police work and also acts as a guide to see if policing truly is a career you wish to pursue!