Police Special Constables to be paid for their work

Devon and Cornwall Police Special Constable Simon Richardson stood beside a ‘Covid car’ that he uses to respond to...

Devon and Cornwall Police Special Constable Simon Richardson has been manning ‘Covid cars’ responding to complaints about breaches or coronavirus legislation. - Credit: Devon and Cornwall Police

Special Constables who agree to complete a set number of shifts are being paid an allowance by Devon and Cornwall Police as the force strengthens its response to policing the coronavirus pandemic.

Until earlier this year Specials Constables – volunteer officers with full police powers – could only apply for expenses incurred while carrying out their duties.

Now Devon and Cornwall Police, backed by its Commissioner Alison Hernandez, has launched an extended pilot project to see the force through the depths of winter.

Those who perform eight, eight-hour shifts in December and January will be eligible to apply for the allowance of £750.

Special Constables remain classified as volunteers under the scheme but the Commissioner and Chief Constable favour a change in legislation that would enable police forces to use the Special Constabulary as a paid reserve in the same way the Army Reserve flexes to provide additional resource at times of need.

Devon and Cornwall Police receives a significant spike in calls for service during the summer tourist season when it polices significantly more people than in winter months.

The force sees an 11 per cent rise in crime in the months between April and September, a 14 per cent rise in incidents and an 18 per cent increase in missing people.

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The force has a record of pioneering human resources projects, in recent years working with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service to create the Community Responder role of a firefighter with Special Constable powers; it has also collaborated with other blue light services to create the Tri-Service Safety Officer for remote Cornish communities.

“We have a unique set of challenges in Devon and Cornwall, with a large remote force area which sees its population swell in the summer months,” Commissioner Hernandez said.

“Volunteers are a huge asset to our communities in helping us maintain Devon and Cornwall as one of the safest force areas in the country. This is about recognising some of the barriers to service that the Special Constabulary face and perhaps making it more attractive to those who have considered joining but who may not be in a financial position to be able to give that time for no reward.

“In the South West reserved firefighters and reserve soldiers are ready to step up in a time of need and provide a skilled and flexible workforce.

"That is what I would like to help create in policing to help us deal with a surge in summer demand.”

Shaun Sawyer, chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: “This is a moment during a pandemic when we have reflected and considered how our policing services are delivered and the vital role volunteers have within policing but also wider public service.

“Their role of volunteers is pivotal to policing within the peninsula and without which, many of our frontline services would not be as effective. There is a principle as an employer that volunteering is a balance between respecting that time, which is freely given, and the expectations and duties of their role.

“In respect of the Special Constabulary, they are unique in having all of the powers of sworn full-time officers and the responsibilities that go with it, whilst also providing their services as volunteers.

“I therefore believe this is the moment to explore the concept of enhanced allowance to Special Constables when we ask them to perform set shifts, prescribed hours and for a focused operational purpose.

"The allowance recognises the essential work that Specials undertake during this pandemic and acknowledges their wider contribution to policing.

"Dependent on the outcome of the pilot, I will be discussing with the PCC, Police Federation, Trades Unions and the Force the potential to expand this approach especially during the busy summer months.

"t must be noted however, that every Special Constable has the choice whether to become part of this endeavour and that irrespective of their decision, their contribution is invaluable.”

Marc Kastner, chief officer, Special Constabulary, said: “It is great news that the Police and Crime Commissioner has acknowledged the remarkable work through the development of the enhanced allowance scheme to volunteer police officers who have been supporting their paid police colleagues since the coronavirus outbreak.

"The Covid-19 cars being operated by Special Constables within  Devon and Cornwall will support local communities stay safe particularly over the winter period.”

Devon and Cornwall Police has 134 Special Constables who are eligible for the initial allowance, which will be paid on a first-come, first-served basis.

The project will be one of those funded by £60m paid by the Home Office to police forces to help them meet the cost of policing coronavirus regulations.

The Devon and Cornwall pilot project follows a West Midlands Police scheme which gave a one-off allowance to each Special Constable for every 16 hours they worked over and above their normal shifts to help with the response to Covid-19.

The Midlands force is also planning to deploy paid specials to help police the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022.