Still undecided whether volunteering with your local police force is for you? Then why not ready ‘Our Stories’ and see first-hand how you can make a difference to the community while learning valuable skills and experience.
Being a cadet involves attending a weekly session. For me it is a Thursday evening. Every week we have an input on law and once a month we have a sports night. Sometimes we have talks from officers or staff from policing areas such as the Dog Unit. We have visits to police departments such as the custody centre and we assist at local events such as the Suffolk show and music festivals.
I have learned a range of skills including basic interviewing and case building. It has also made me more resilient and able to remain calm in challenging situations. Being a special has increased my self-confidence and my ability to manage my own time, which has been essential when balancing a full-time role as a cadet coordinator, volunteering as a special and studying for my Master’s degree.
As a cadet you get the chance to take part in a wide range of activities including camping, first aid, survival skills, award schemes such as Jack Petchey and Duke of Edinburgh, learning about the law, leafleting in communities and test purchasing. Test purchasing involves going into a shop undercover with a trading standards officer and a police officer to buy ‘over 18’ items. This particular activity makes shop keepers more aware of the potential danger of selling tobacco, alcohol and knives to underage costumers to reduce anti-social behaviour and knife crime.
Volunteering is far more engaging than I expected and provides a number of opportunities I wasn’t aware of. There is a lot of variety in terms of ways in which you can help. I have also been asked to act as a role player for police officer training, playing the role of a victim, witness or offender to help officers and new recruits to practice their processes and procedures.
My role involves managing Cheshire Police’s rural crime Twitter account. I liaise with officers and staff who provide me with topical pictures and information to post, as well as promoting crime safety messages or appeals for information. I also assist with corporate photography requirements and was recently involved in the production of the first corporate calendar for the force, taking shots of the Constabulary’s fleet of vehicles.
I was so pleased to be able to make a difference, and contribute on a professional level. With the PLOD team, I felt valued and appreciated. I was surprised and delighted to find that the police have a terrific sense of humour about their job, and they are also the most helpful and kind people you could ever hope to meet. They are trained and encouraged to be helpful. Many of them join because they want to help people.
My role is to help spread messages about road safety and to highlight the importance of safe driving. I worked with others in the force and in the local community to launch CURSI, and we take our messages to local schools and groups. We also organise staged training events, setting up lifelike road traffic collisions with the Ambulance & Fire Service to educate young people in road and traffic safety, including issues such as the dangers of drink driving or using mobile phones.
The best thing I have gained is discipline; it has really helped me change my behaviour for the better. When I started, my behaviour was unpredictable and challenging for the leaders, and I didn’t regularly attend. I now never miss a session and have been promoted to cadet leader. I have been able to do things I never thought I would do, for example, riot training with specialist riot police and taking part in the Iron Team Challenge with cadets from forces across the UK.
I’ve gained the opportunity to make an impact; both in terms of recruiting new special constables, who in turn, will make their own impact, but also by supporting frontline policing; protecting people that need help. Despite already having experience with difficult situations and conflict, I’ve developed these skills ten-fold. I’ve been thrown into situations that few people would ever come across and you have no option but to deal with it in the moment – we deal with make or break situations. Thankfully, it’s made me a much stronger character.
My proudest achievement is in being able to develop my role to encompass further duties. By putting myself forward to help in a number of ways, I have been able to take on jobs that were taking up the time of police officers and PCSOs. They can now be released from the station to perform key policing duties.
For me the reality is better than I expected. Specials carry out a lot more front line policing than I had imagined when I originally enquired about the role. Many people have a perception of the Special Constabulary as only being involved in lighter, community-focused work. There are wide-ranging opportunities and more and more roles in which specials can make an important contribution.
I have been with the cadets (as a cadet and as a cadet leader) for four years and I have gained a lot of confidence in my own ability and in my understanding of policing and the work of GMP. I have also learned about different management styles and ways of teaching to get the best out of the younger cadets.
My role is as a dedicated roads policing special. Sometimes this involves working with regular roads policing officers which helps me build my knowledge and skills in the field by getting involved in specialist areas such as managing and investigating serious collisions, but it also helps me stay up to date on changes in the more day to day aspects of roads policing. I also work on my own, pro-actively focussing on a specific aspect of road safety such as speeding, mobile phone use, seatbelts or drink driving, but responding when needed to minor collisions or other non-traffic related incidents. Some of the most rewarding shifts involve running ‘mini operations’ with other specials as part of a specific event or campaign.
I am polish so can speak my native language, which can help with translation and communication with polish community groups. I believe I am quite an open person, which allows me to connect and communicate with people easily. Also, because I’m studying for A-levels, I have developed good problem-solving skills.
Being a university student, my team-working skills are good as I often have to work on group projects and presentations. This means I can work well with my colleagues in the specials. Also, I have developed many organisational skills at university, which have made me much more efficient at planning my time and workloads. As a special, you deal with people day in, day out, so this has really helped develop my confidence and my ‘people skills’. The work has also taught me how to be resourceful and to show initiative.