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Number of special constables continues to plummet

Specials leaving the force faster than they are joining
Published - 02/07/2018 By - Sophie Garrod - Police Oracle

The number of officers in the special constabulary has nearly halved in the space of five years.

In March 2012 there were 20,343 special constables and that number has fallen dramatically to 12,601, according to Home Office figures from September 2017.

Reasons behind the 61 per cent decrease include the job looking unattractive to outsiders due to negative media coverage, thus less are deciding to enrol, according to Durham Constabulary Chief Officer Dale Checksfield.

He told Police Oracle: “The reasons vary, but one is there has been an increase in the number of regular police officers recruited. Specials have become a feedstock for recruitment as they can ‘try before they buy’ to determine if they want to become a regular.

“The other bit is the reduction in policing budgets – forces have less money available so there has been a reduction in recruitment action in austerity.

“The limited budget means forces want to get more bang for their buck and instead prioritise employing regular officers instead of recruiting volunteers.”

Another cause for concern is the joining and leaving rate. In the year to March 31 2012, 6,263 special constables joined the special constabulary and 3,983 left. This is in comparison to last year which saw 3,041 joining and 5,008 depart.

However, these figures could reflect the recruitment drive in 2012 ahead of the Olympics, according to SC/O Checksfield.

In the space of just six months, forces lost nearly 1,000 specials - in March last year there were 13,305 officers which dropped to 12,601 by the end of September.

The Metropolitan Police Service has the highest number of voluntary officers with a total of 2,470, but this has dropped by 57 per cent since 2012 (5,752).

Thames Valley Police has the largest amount of specials for a non-metropolitan force (excluding MPS, West Midlands and GMP) with 471 officers. However, in March 2012 there were 719 - a 34 per cent fall.

S/CO Checksfield added: “Some forces are trying to recruit more. The challenge is that 43 forces have different ways of doing things. They have to understand their budget and community needs.

“I am pleased to see some recognise the fall and recognise their value for policing and the community.

“The figures do not shock me but they do worry me.

“Specials add grassroots to communities and give back to communities. With unprecedented demands special constables are only going to play a greater and greater role.”

He added the policing model for the special constabulary also needs to be “future-proofed” and the role needs to be reviewed.

“The model is virtually unchanged since 1831 - policing is a completely different animal now.”

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