Why did you become a special? I joined just after I finished university and moved to North Yorkshire to start work. I felt I wanted to build a stronger relationship with the area I had moved to rather than simply living and working there, and always gained huge satisfaction from ‘helping others’. I had often considered joining the police but decided that becoming a special was the ideal way to pursue my professional career whilst yet still satisfying my interest in policing and community involvement.
What skills do you bring to the role and what does your work involve? Having been a special for over 20 years now I have probably brought a variety of different skills to the job over time, but throughout my time as a special I have a passion for what I do, I take pride in doing it to a high standard and enjoy sharing my skills and knowledge with others.
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.
What have you gained from being a special? Inevitably I have learned a lot of detailed aspects of the law which I would not otherwise have been exposed to, but I have also learned a lot about people – people from various backgrounds and circumstances who might think and behave differently from those who we would otherwise meet in day to day life.
What is the reality of volunteering like compared to what you had expected? The Special Constabulary has become very professionally managed – even in the years since I joined I can see significant changes – improvements – the investment by the force into us is greater, but the benefit is that the capabilities of the Special Constabulary has increased. This is vital for us, as members of the public don’t really know or care that we are volunteers – they see a police officer wearing an identical uniform to regular paid officers and have the same expectations of us as they do all police officers.
What is your proudest achievement as a special? My proudest achievement is probably receiving the Glenn Goodman award in 2016. The trophy is awarded each year to an outstanding special constable in memory of Special Constable Glenn Goodman, who was shot dead by an IRA gunman whilst on duty in Tadcaster in 1992. But I am also particularly proud when I am asked for advice and guidance by regular officers in areas where I am seen as more knowledgeable and experienced, and when I am treated as ‘part of the team’ by members of a close-knit regular shift and invited to join them in social activities.
What is the best thing about volunteering? The prime motivation for me is helping people and having a positive effect on individuals or communities. My day job in a large global company is all about making (or saving) money. Being a special allows me to satisfy a human desire to help people and in my current role dedicated to roads policing, I have the real potential to save lives through the combination of education and enforcement.
What’s the biggest challenge? The biggest challenge I face is reminding myself that I can’t do everything! I can’t help everyone; I can’t detect every offence; I can’t catch every criminal; and I can’t prevent every accident or injury. I’m just proud to be part of an organisation that can and does make a difference and the challenge I set myself is how best to maximise my contribution.
What advice would you give to someone considering volunteering for the police? Do it! There are many good reasons for volunteering for the police – whatever yours is, provided you are willing to make the investment in time you are sure to find it rewarding.