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How to Become a Special Constable

By: Lynne Conner - Updated: 28 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Special Constable Police Crime

People from all walks of life become Special Constables. Whether it is a desire to learn new skills, to experience the challenge and unpredictability of active police work or to make a difference in the community all share a commitment to volunteering with their local police force.

There is a rigorous application process but for the 14,000 Special Constables who currently offer the UK’s part-time policing the rewards are well worth it.

The Role of a Special Constable

The key fact is that after training Special Constables have the same powers to arrest as regular police. Each force has its own training programme - the national police training programme recommends a minimum of 18 days.

Training includes communication skills – e.g. dealing with difficult people, self-defence, general crimes powers of arrest, giving evidence in court. On completion of training Special Constables are issued with a uniform similar to regular police.

For many forces there are various grades of Special Constable so responsibility increases with training and experience.

Work will vary from force to force – and includes patrolling on foot, assisting at emergencies such as fires and road accidents, tackling brawls, helping out with road safety initiatives, giving crime prevention talks to schools or businesses, undertaking house to house enquiries and participating in operations to target a particular problem such as underage drinking. In addition there are other ways to volunteer with the police as well as becoming a Special Constable.

Why Become a Special Constable?

The role of a Special Constable offers challenge and excitement. The training and experience provides new skills and qualifications. It allows volunteers to get involved in community affairs and tackle local crime.

For some becoming a ‘Special’ provides first-hand experience of police work for those who are considering it as a career. For others it simply provides a change from the routine of a 9-5 job. In all cases it provides all the rewards of giving something back to the local community, creates raised self-esteem and ability to communicate and brings a greater involvement in the neighbourhood. Many also welcome the teamwork and find it offers a chance to build new friendships.

What Qualifications are Needed?

Becoming a Special Constable involves a rigorous application process and a willingness to commit to 4 hours or more a week. The role is open to both men and women, (around 1/3 are female.) Each police force has an individual recruitment process – check locally – but all share certain requirements.

Applicants need to be a European national and be over 18 and under 55. They need to have good eyesight and not be colour-blind, pass a medical and not be in a restricted occupation. This includes the fire service, magistrates, publicans, bailiffs, doctors, nurses and allied health professionals and private detectives.

Would be ‘Specials’ must be of ‘good character’ – background checks will be run on the applicant and their family and these may take some time. They must reveal past criminal offences – but don’t worry about minor offences as not all are a bar to volunteering with the police. In addition Special Constables must be free of debt.

Although rarer than in the past, in some forces a home visit will take place. This is less part of the assessment process and more an opportunity to discuss what is involved and to keep up interest in the role.

Once these initial stages are passed there will be an assessment day or half-day. Exercises will test confidence, teamwork, leadership skill and self-motivation. Examiners also look for common sense, empathy, a sense of right and wrong and bravery. As part of the assessment there will be a PIRT (Police Initial Recruitment Test) written test .Finally a fitness test measures endurance, dynamic strength and grip test, all vital abilities for the testing role of Special Constable.

Once the test has been passed volunteers are assigned to a station and can begin training. Contact the local police force for more information and an application form.

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