Police call in volunteers to help look after front-line vehicles as more residents step up to help officers

Volunteers are being used to help maintain South Yorkshire Police cars, which respond to 999 calls across the county.

By Paul Whitehouse
Friday, 17 May, 2019, 09:36
Free ride: A volunteer carries out checks on a South Yorkshire Police car

Police are actively recruiting people to help keep its front line vehicles ready for action by conducting the day-to-day maintenance and safety checks which keep them ready for action.

The force hope that by putting those tasks into the hands of volunteers, officers are not distracted from their operational duties, meaning they can spend more time on the streets.

The force already has volunteers to help with ‘response’ cars – those used to answer 999 emergencies, in Sheffield and Rotherham, with another volunteer due to start working in Barnsley.

Work has started to extend the scheme to Doncaster and to increase volunteer numbers across the force, with two now operating in the Rotherham area.

Lisa Potter, who is responsible for around 100 volunteers who provide a huge range of services, said the work involved basic safety checks, such as ensuring tyres were correctly inflated, the engine had enough oil and there was fluid in the screen washer tank.

They also make sure the police ‘kit’ on board vehicles is all present and do some cleaning.

Lisa said: “We are not asking for mechanics, but for people who know their way around a vehicle and can make the basic checks.

“There are three posts at the moment, it is fairly new and we have been trying to get it off the ground for some time.”

The service has proved itself useful since it was introduced, with the Sheffield volunteers putting in four hours a week between the Attercliffe and Moss Way stations.

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It illustrates the increasingly diverse roles now open to volunteers from the community.

The force is also looking to recruit a cyber volunteer, a computer expert who can act as a consultant to police to give advice on new and emerging technologies and what the implications of those might be for the force.

That is likely to be suited to someone with a professional background in computing, but there is already a squad of 10 digital outreach staff, who work at the Lifewise centre in Rotherham, providing sessions to help the public become more digitally aware with help on tasks including online banking and Skype calls.

As cyber crime becomes an increasing problem, assisting people to use the internet safely is increasingly important.

Although the range of volunteer roles has expanded in recent years, new suggestions are carefully scrutinised by a volunteer board, chaired by a superintendent and involving trade union and Police Federation representatives, to confirm any new work is suitable to be given over people wanting to help.

In the Barnsley community of Penistone, volunteers have actively suggested using the public to re-open the police station counter, closed during the austerity cuts of the last decade.

That has already been investigated and ruled out on security grounds, because of the sensitivities of having members of the public working in police premises, but work is continuing to find an alternative location for a public ‘counter’ to deal with policing issues in the town, which could open for part of the week.

National Volunteering Week takes place in the early June and that will be supported by South Yorkshire Police, with more details of volunteering opportunities available on its website.