October 1 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, April 19, 2014
Comet reporter Oliver Pritchard was invited to join a police patrol as part of National Specials Weekend – here he recounts the experience.
For me last Friday wasn’t your typical night in front of the television.
I spent it driving around the streets of Hitchin and Letchworth GC in white van with an IT manager, two train drivers, and a buyer until midnight.
This wasn’t a strange group I’d met on the internet but volunteer police officers from Hertfordshire Constabulary who were marking the 14th annual National Specials Weekend by carrying out burglary patrols.
Joining me in the van were special sergeants Andrew Hall, 31, a buyer for the Salvation Army, and 26-year-old train driver Ian Bailey, as well as special constables Kebba Jobe, 39, who works as a tube driver, and Ben Stanton, 32, an IT manager.
We were followed in a support car by three further special constables – Jason Glasgow, 41, a painter and decorator, Luke Morley, 25, a bar supervisor and Olly Gore, 24, a barber.
The evening proved largely uneventful as I witnessed one man being given a penalty notice, but it gave me the opportunity to find out why those who accompanied me choose to volunteer.
Despite their different ages, backgrounds and livelihoods, all seven give at least 16 hours of their spare time a month to patrol the streets of Comet country to tackle crime and disorder.
Sergeant Hall said: “I’ve been volunteering for more than eight years now. Originally I started in Stevenage but recently moved over to the Hitchin branch. For me it’s about giving something back to the community in which I live and helping people.
“It’s also great fun being in the specials. There’s a brilliant team spirit and I’ve made great friends over the past eight years that I’ll undoubtedly keep for life.”
Special Constable Jobe has been a member of the specials for 17 years and spends around 40 hours a week, on top of his full-time job at the London Underground, voluntarily working for the police.
He said: “Originally I was going to go in the regular police but had a stable job with London Underground. I still wanted be involved in policing and the specials gives me a great way to do that. I absolutely love it, hence why I spend so much of my free time here.
“It’s not easy though, we are placed in all the same positions that a regular police officer is and we’re not even getting paid.
“Despite this I still get a great feeling at the end of a shift and would encourage anyone to join because it’s an immensely rewarding job and I love every minute of it.”
Special Constable Stanton has been volunteering for the past two years.
He said: “I live in the countryside and take part in a lot of country sports. I’m friends with a lot of farmers and have seen their property getting broken into. I wanted to do something about this which is why I joined the specials. It gives me an opportunity, in my spare time, to actively work to protect the community in which I live which is a very rewarding thing to do.”
Special constables, know as specials, have the same powers as full-time police officers and work along side their counterparts performing all the same tasks on a purely voluntary basis.
The specials were originally set-up by Charles II in 1673 to help the regular police force during public disorder and have been in their current format since 1835.
Acrosss the UK there are 18,000 specials, with 410 in Hertfordshire. Hertfordshire Constabulary are looking to recruit up to another 90 specials – for more information about joining visit www.hertspolicecareers.co.uk/working-for-us/jobs-at-hertfordshire-constabulary/special-constables