An army of volunteers who give up their spare time to help police the streets of South Yorkshire is growing day by day.
With the number of Special Constables in the county having already increased by 102 over the last 12 months, a major recruitment drive is now under way to boost numbers even further.
South Yorkshire Police had 273 ‘specials’ when Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright took over in November last year but with police budgets being cut, the force need to rely on more volunteers to make up for falling officer numbers.
The PCC, who this month celebrates his first 12 months in post, made it one of his ‘priorities’ to boost the number of Special Constables on the county’s streets.
He now has 375 in post and hopes to have 650 in place by 2015. The force wants men and women from all walks of life and backgrounds so the Specials are representative of multi-cultural South Yorkshire.
Inspector Paul Ferguson, of South Yorkshire Police, whose Safer Neighbourhood Team is supported by specials, said: “South Yorkshire’s communities have benefited from a team of dedicated Specials for many years.
“Specials are the voluntary arm of policing. People from across the area, from all walks of life, from all backgrounds, freely give up of their time to work alongside their regular colleagues to police our neighbourhoods – conducting targeted operations to tackle burglary, car crime or drugs, they work football matches and even with specialist departments.
“In return, South Yorkshire Police welcomes and values their effort and contribution. We invest heavily in training and support, we mentor and develop, we provide experiences and opportunities.
“We are in the midst of an expansion programme. We intend to increase our number of Specials to 650 officers by April 2015.
“Traditionally, we have had a complement of around 200. We have nearly 400 now. Within this plan, we are conscious of the benefits of having a team of officers who reflect society. Therefore, we are particularly keen to attract applicants from black and minority ethnic communities and other minority groups.
“The impact these officers are making, and will go on to make, is tremendous. Our Specials provide terrific service to South Yorkshire, they all should be extremely proud of what they have do.”
Neil Bowles from South Yorkshire Police Federation said: “The Special Constabulary uphold a long tradition of volunteering within society.
“It is not only beneficial to the organisation but developmental and satisfying to the individual.
“Specials play a very important part in the policing of South Yorkshire, however, they are and always have been a compliment to the regular officers.
“They have the full powers of a constable, unlike PCSOs. The Police Federation of England and Wales has just carried out a survey of the Special Constabulary, to find out whether they would want some kind of membership of our organisation.
“They have to commit to an average of four hours work a week. They have outside commitments both professionally and privately, and so cannot be ordered to perform a duty at a certain time. Traditionally there has been a high turnover of Specials which has a cost implication in terms of their training.
“Those that do stay and are tempted to join the regulars will have a head start on external candidates.
“Mr Wright, has started a recruitment drive of Specials with a target to double the number we have ever had. This is to help achieve his visibility priority in the Police and Crime Plan.”