POLICE and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins has announced that he will double the number of Special Constables currently on Bedfordshire’s books.
He told a meeting of the Police and Crime Panel last night (Wednesday 24 July) that he wants to see the number of Specials increase so that ultimately they could number as much as a third of the Force’s warranted officers.
He said: “We already have just under 200 Specials who do a fantastic job for Bedfordshire residents working alongside regular officers.
“The work they do is vital in helping Bedfordshire Police continue achieving reductions in crime and deliver a safer Bedfordshire.
“Special Constables have the same powers as their regular colleagues - including the power of arrest – and have the same uniform and equipment. They are well trained and highly professional police officers and most people are not able to tell the difference between specials and regular officers.
“However, this is not one-sided. Becoming a Special Constable offers huge benefits to the individual in terms of personal and professional development and can be a spring-board to a new career.”
Commissioner Martins’ call to increase the Specials’ contingent is partly a response to the force’s funding challenge highlighted in last week’s report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.
The HMIC expressed concerns about the “Force’s ability to maintain its service to the public when faced with continuing funding reductions.”
Mr Martins added: “Expanding our Special Constabulary is undeniably partly driven by the funding cuts we face.
"But I strongly believe these officers make a vital contribution to the efficiency of the Force and help to build a strong link between the local communities they live and work in and Bedfordshire Police,
“This is also about securing as much resilience as possible in our local policing teams and I would want to see the number of Special Constables increase even without the financial imperative.
“I also intend, that in addition to Specials augmenting regular police officers which is how it works now, there will be a second strand to the Specials where officers are more static and community focused, essentially becoming ‘Parish Constables’.
“I think this will help the visibility of Bedfordshire Police which I know is a real concern to the public at a time of police cuts”.
In its report, the HMIC noted that Bedfordshire Police had so far been able to adapt to shrinking resources while achieving an above average reduction in crime.
But it concluded that while the Force continued to work to identify further cost savings through collaboration, there were limits to what this could deliver.