Fall in Notts Police special constables - but force says policing offering has improved

Nottinghamshire Police have defended a drop in the number of special constables – saying many have become full-time officers, boosting the county’s police offering.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 2:00 pm

The number of special constables working alongside police officers in Nottinghamshire has fallen by more than a half over the past decade, figures reveal.

Increases in workloads have made it impossible for some of the officers in England and Wales to volunteer alongside their day jobs, claims the Police Federation.

The Association of Special Constabulary Officers has described a significant fall in numbers across the two nations as a ‘huge loss’ to policing – special constables hold the same powers as police constables and work a minimum of 16 hours a month as volunteers.

Special Constable numbers have fallen across the Nottinghamshire Police area.

Home Office data shows Nottinghamshire Police had 152 special constables in March this year – down from 156 the year before and a 53 per cent drop from 2011, when there were 322.

However, Nottinghamshire Police said it was ‘positive news in terms of the policing offer’ in the county, as many specials had become full-time officers, boosting the ranks of regular staff.

Superintendent Louise Clarke, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “We’re committed to driving up regular police officer numbers and has been very successful.

“Our campaign has included recruiting a number of specials to police constables. The results speak for themselves – we have the highest number of regular officers in a decade, which is good news for the public and the workforce.

“We are continuing to recruit a number of new specials as we always have in addition to piloting a national bespoke Special Constable to Regular Constable route for the College of Policing.

“Latest Home Office figures confirmed the force reached 2,225 regular officers ahead of the target, up by 245, or 12.4 per cent, since October 2019.

“We have just passed the 2,260 mark with more intakes planned throughout the year. The ranks haven’t been this high since March 2011.

“Special constables provide a valuable additional resource and we recruit specials four times a year through a number of entry routes for people from all backgrounds.

“In many cases, rather than leaving the force, many successfully step up to become full time police officers which makes sound public, financial and operational sense.”

Across England and Wales, the number of special officers has reduced by more than half over the past decade, from 18,421 in 2011 to 9,174 this year.

The Police Federation for England and Wales said a recent focus on recruiting more paid police officers, including some former specials, and an increase in workload for the volunteer officers were behind the demise in numbers.

John Apter, chairman, said: “More and more has been expected of special constables.

“These extra pressures have caused some to leave the service, as they cannot juggle their day jobs with what is expected of them.

“We need their support, and we need more of them.”

The ASCO has called for a national recruitment campaign for more specials, claiming they provide ‘enormous value’ to community policing, as shown during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Home Office figures show the equivalent of 429 full-time police officer roles were filled by former specials, in 2020-21, including 10 in Nottinghamshire.

The Home Office said it was working closely with police forces to help attract, recruit and retain more specials.