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Paul Topham

Special Sergeant, Derbyshire

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.

Why did you become a special? I had considered joining the regular constabulary and thought that being a special would give me an insight into the role. I decided after becoming a father that shift work wasn’t for me, so the Special Constabulary allowed me to pursue a career in policing alongside self-employment. I have now been a special for over 13 years so see it as a long-term career in its own right.

What skills do you bring to the role and what does your work involve? I have strong communication and time management skills which are crucial in this job, but I also bring a lot of common sense.  These skills have helped me greatly in my current role as a sergeant in a response hub, where I manage a team of 13 special constables.  Response officers are those that respond to calls for urgent calls for service.  We work alongside our regular police colleagues and deal with a broad range of people and incidents during every shift.

What have you gained from being a special? I’ve learned to approach things with an open mind and not to pre-judge people.  Working in policing opens your eyes to every part of the community in which we live and work. It’s also taught me to have patience when needed.

What is the reality of volunteering like compared to what you had expected? 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.

What is your proudest achievement as a special? Every time I go out on duty I feel proud. If I had to choose something specific it would be either becoming trained as a Police Support Unit (PSU) level 2 officer – which means I have undergone specialist tactical training in public order and riot control, I am one of only three specials in my county trained to this level, or running operations to arrest outstanding suspects on my section.

What is the best thing about volunteering? The people I work with and knowing that I’m part of something huge, that everyone in the organisation is there for the same reason; to make the county safer for the public.

What’s the biggest challenge? The biggest challenge is getting the balance right between your family, work and the specials.

What advice would you give to someone considering volunteering for the police? Do it. It’s very satisfying giving something back to the community you live in. Also, if you’ve ever thought about joining the regulars then try the specials first, it gives you a fantastic insight into the realities of being a police officer.

 

 

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