If you live in an old house you are likely to have walls inside the house of varying degrees of quality. You will also know that a good quality heavyweight wallpaper can cover up a whole multitude of sins. Unlike a modern house with its paper thin stud walls that can be covered in emulsion and look very tidy the older wall can be covered in surface cracks and in places quite crumbly. Sometimes you are not aware of the state of the wall behind and only when you come to redecorate does the sorry state of the plaster behind reveal itself. It can be a shock to discover and could be quite expensive to correct.

You have to make a judgement call. Can I afford to call in the plasterer? If he/she is to do one wall they may as well do them all and probably the ceiling too. Is it worth it or can I utilise a cheaper option and fill the gaps. If money is of no concern to you then the tradesman gets the job. If however, you are managing a budget, working all the hours God sends, trying to raise a family and keep food on the table a cheaper option may be your only route.

Out comes the polyfilla. A cheap and readily available supply of sticky, hardening gloop that will fill the cracks, patch some of the holes and dry to a hard finish. It’s not permanent. It’s actually a bit of a botch job but it sorts a problem and by the time you come to decorate again you either have the money to do it properly or, even better, you have moved house and the problem is somebody else’s.

With the filling complete you can finish the job and then sit back with your feet up and enjoy the newly decorated room. Only you really knows the truth of what is hidden behind that thin veneer of wallpaper.

I blogged a while ago about the erosion of the police service and the handing out of contracts to private contractors such as G4S. The theme was “You Get What You Pay For” Many of you will also know that I have over 20 years service with the police but prior to that I was a Special Constable for 3 years. If I ever tweet anything slightly contentious about Specials I get many questions asking for my view on our policing volunteers. I always refer such enquiries to my blog Special People.

I am not against the Special Constabulary. On the contrary I am very supportive of them and the role they provide. That said I am also a professional police officer and my duty is to the public and nobody else. If a policy or change in law or practice is likely to put the public at greater harm then it is my duty to stand up and challenge that decision. I could be going head to head with the local Detective Inspector or Theresa May. I seem to have a better track record of success with the DI!

Policing in this country is on the change. The Government are driving the changes in a blinkered fashion and the rank and file officers, those at the sharp end of the fight against crime are all shouting from the rooftops that the cuts are dangerous. Not only to the public but to the safety of officers attending violent incidents with fewer numbers. We are being ignored.

Police officer numbers are being reduced nationwide. Yet there is good news.. apparently. The number of Special Constables is on the up. The NPIA reports a total of 20,343 across the country. An increase of 10.4%. If you follow some of the forces or Chief Officers on Twitter you will see very little shouting about new police officer recruits. There are however many filtering through reporting new intakes of Special Constables. Thames Valley in particular seem to have invoked a very determined policy. Nigel Woodley @TVPSC when asked said;

Yes we have tripled our establishment in our five year recruiting plan. 247 five years ago compared to 760 now.

Tripled their establishment in 5 years! That’s like increasing the current regular police force from the 135,000 we are now to 405,000 officers. It’s an incredible leap. It only leaves one question in my mind. Why?

I reiterate. I am not anti-special. It is important to note though that they are not full time officers. They are not as qualified or experienced as full time officers and are not able to cope or handle the majority of the tasks we complete. We have forces around the country increasing the number of unpaid volunteers on one hand whilst on the other they are cutting down the retained, remunerated officers. Even to an outsider this looks suspicious.

The Government and Chief Officers push this ‘good news’ through with smiles. It is something to encourage the public. “You are safe. Look at all these community volunteers who want to give something back to their local area.” It is a big truth that this is exactly what the Special Constables want to do. I cannot take that away from them. However, it is becoming clear that their role and position in policing is being used by Government and Chief Officers as a political football to divert attention from the bad news that is the reality of policing today.

The public don’t generally see a Special Constable. They see a police officer in uniform. Unless they look closely or understand the different insignia they do not worry or care whether the officer is full time or a volunteer. As far as public confidence goes this is good. There are cops everywhere. How marvellous. Yet the problem arises in that the Special does not have the same skill set as the fully qualified and experienced officer. The officer who gives ‘full time attention to those duties’. Some are no doubt very good, put many years of service into the force and manage a lot of roles many would quake from. They are few and far between though and the bulk of Special Constables have a thimble of policing skills in comparison to the bucket a full time officer has.

The public are being hoodwinked. Much as they were with PCSO’s that made it look like there were more police on the street when there weren’t. Some PCC candidates are advocating massive increases in Special Constables too. I seriously believe that they have absolutely no idea what the role and skill set of a Special is and the yawning gulf between.
Special Constables have a role to play in policing in this country. They are however a supplementary addition. They are not a replacement. Chief Officers and the Government would agree with me but whilst saying one thing their actions indicate something else entirely. The drive to increase the establishment of Special Constables across the country is an attempt to fill the cracks with Policefilla and cover it up with shiny new wallpaper. They can then sit back and admire how rosy everything looks but they will know it’s temporary. It’s a botch job that is going to lead to greater problems. Only when the investigated a little closer will the public realise that the wall behind is about to collapse.

The Government and Chief officers will no doubt have moved on by then and the problem will be one for the new tenants who can blame the sorry state of affairs on the previous owner.


10 thoughts on “Policefilla”

  1. I would love to see some hard data on the number of A19’d officers now serving as specials. From what I’ve heard it’s a recurring trend. It says something about police officerst that even when they’re screwed over by their forces, commanding officers and government so many still want to strap on a uniform and serve.

  2. Great article. My views on specials are perhaps a little more extreme.

    It leaves me feeling very uneasy if I’m honest.
    My force has massively increased its number of specials recently. A small number seem decent, willing to learn and are doing it for the right reasons.

    The vast majority however appear to be Walter Mitty types, obsessed with the job, but without any of the characteristics required or even basic common sense. Unwilling to take advice or structured criticism, they think because they’ve had a two week course they know it all. Unfortunately I’m patient by nature, which means my sgts know I won’t kick up a fuss. Others on my shift refuse to work with one lad in particular, and I always get stuck with him as a result.

    I have spent a large number of shifts babysitting these individuals, who aren’t doing it out of a sense of community pride,instead labouring under the delusion that being a special will guarantee them a post when applications reopen.

    Someone will end up getting seriously hurt, I genuinely prefer being single crewed, which is area command policy every shift except night shift anyway, again to give the impression of more police. Policefilla, as you succintly put it!

    1. While I am a SC and Volunteer for the named force in this post, I am very mixed about this and feel that SC can indeed assist Regulars with good outcomes. I have also seen SC who are rightly walts and only do it for the Uniform and in hope to progress to a Regular, I do not wish to do the job full time and my intentions to join are a little more deep rooted in to my childhood through things I have experienced and wish nobody else to go through.

      While you claim some SC are a bad egg, trust me when I say this but I have met far to many Regulars who have no motivation in doing the job and still believe “its a job for life” (be lucky you have a job), and the affect their attitude towards each job seems to rub off on others, even on SC when you are “babysitting” us and wonder why we have a few bad eggs.

      Do I feel like I am taking a regulars job with the cutts? Yes I do.
      Do I like that feeling? No, I really don’t, but really do think with the right mindset that SC can be a great asset to any Regular but that must be drilled into both Regulars and SC that we are only just that, a Volunteer.

      I enjoy role and learn something every shift I do, I agree we have no where near the same experience but do think we can do the tasks if trained to do so.

  3. It is for comments like yours that Special Constables that are segregated, a very much Special Constable ‘v’ Regulars.
    Special Constables volunteer their time to provide additional support for the regulars mainly at weekends.
    Your comment about Special Constables not being able to handle or cope with the majority of tasks Regular Officers do is utter slapdash, many Specials are OIC in crimes, make arrests, do all necessary paperwork, interview, put together cps files and go court. If it were not for Special constables and you needed immediate back up because your life was in danger, would you not prefer to have someone respond whether it be a special constable or a regular?

    1. I think you need to consider the post again. You also need to read “Special People” linked in the blog. Then you need to get your head around the job we do. Can you deal with a fatal road traffic accident? Are you qualified and experienced to progress a complex major fraud enquiry? What experience do you have of counter terrorism? Are you a PIP trained interviewer? Can you video interview vulnerable child witnesses and victims? Can you act as family liaison officer to a bereaved family? If you can then your force has invested too much money in someone only required to do 4hrs a week.

      I am wholly supportive of the Special Constabulary and I can only assume, by your response that you have not read the blogs properly. There is a difference between us and if you cannot see that then you are in the same group with politicians who believe massively hiking up special numbers whilst reducing full time officers is the panacea to all the fiscal problems they allowed to happen.

      1. Eliza..

        Blimey, the specials in your force have clearly had much more training than ours!
        Specials make arrests, yes. If they’re told to. As for specials doing all necessary paperwork, interviewing, putting together cps files etc, they do all that with a guiding hand on their shoulder. So they’re not doing it themselves, and freeing me up to do something else!

        I admire how specials give up their time, it is not something I could do for free, that’s for sure. But I worry about the motives of some.

      2. [quote]
        Can you deal with a fatal road traffic accident? Are you qualified and experienced to progress a complex major fraud enquiry? What experience do you have of counter terrorism? Are you a PIP trained interviewer? Can you video interview vulnerable child witnesses and victims? Can you act as family liaison officer to a bereaved family?

        Neither can the majority of regular officers unless they have had specialist training

      3. I currently work as an SC within my force.
        I do this role not only for the expirience and development it gives me as a person, but also in the hope that it might stand me in good stead for a regular full time position once day, as you said.
        I think you are totally correct in your assesment of specials. Yes few of them are very competant in their role and profession, whilst the vast majority are incompetant, in need of constant supervision and quite unprofessional. I find within my force alot of specials simply like to wear the uniform and have some degree of ‘power’ over others.
        I do the job because I find it rewarding, I take pride in completion of arrests, handover files, CPS files and going to court. I am always willing to learn from more expirienced officers and I am always willing to take on new information. I take huge pride when a regular officer thanks me for my hard work, or tells me I have done a job well. I try my hardest every shift to be as independant as possible as I realise the difference it can make to free up my regular colleagues.
        You’re right, I cant handle a fatal accident by myself, I couldnt progress a mojor fraud enquiry with a great deal of help, I have little expirience of counter terrorism and unfortuantly I am not PIP trained either. Nor do I conduct video interviews or act as a family liason officer.
        But what I do is deal with the evening and night time policing, dealing with anti social behaviour, drunks, assaults, robbery, theft, criminal damage, public order.
        I give advice to the public, engage with the public and hopefuly give a positive image to policing within this country. I do all this whilst trying to learn as much as I can, and to give me the best insight into the job I want to be doing full time.
        Hopefully with me and my SC colleagues carrying out the above, that frees up you regular officers to attend your fatal RTCs, carry out your fraud investigations and specilise in counter terrorism. And that is where I feel useful – knowing that I am supporting the force by dealing with the minor incidents.
        Would I accept further training if my force offered it? yes of course I would. But I would feel it was a little mis directed as there are alot of regular officers waiting for specialist training.
        The problem with specials in the UK, in my opinion, is that it is a post that is too easy to get into, the entry requirements are too low. I also think they need to be strict on the professional development within the special constabulary. If you do not progress at the rate required, or if you do not show the nessicary skill set to do the job then you are asked to leave. As you correctly pointed out, a member of the public does not see a regular or a special, but just a police officer. And any officer should be able to offer nothing but first class service to the public that they serve and police by consent.

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