The Special Constabulary is a part of the British Police Service, made up of members who give their time voluntarily to police their communities. They have the same powers as a full time paid police officer, and carry out many of the same duties.
A Special Constable must be a British Citizen over the age of 18 1/2, and of good character. They have to pass a physical, medical and a written test, as well as taking an interview board. After this they must go through basic training before being assigned to the Police Station they will work from. Specials come from all works of life, and include postmen, airline stewardesses, businessmen and computer programmers.
What do the Specials Do
At first Specials will patrol the streets of their local community, normally accompanied by a more experienced Special or a Regular officer. After they finish their basic training, normally six months, they will be alowed to work on nights and in patrol cars partnering a Regular officer. During this time the officer will continue to receive training, until after two years they are allowed to patrol on their own.
Once they achieve Independant Patrol status they can then specialise if they want. Specials who follow this line of work normally dedicate more time to training and duties in order to meet the demands of their chosen field. Some areas officers work in across the country are Traffic Division, Vice Squad, Airport Unit and Neighbourhood Constable. The majority of officers remain working on the streets, carrying out standard police work, and in some cases training the new recruits. All Specials, no matter wher they work or what they do, are also required to work on certain public order duties, such as parades, football matches, or Royal visits.
Some Specials feel that they have management potential, and there is a rank structure within the Special Constabulary that carries out the administration work in their area. Promotion is normally by a selection board made up of a Senior Regular officer, and a Senior Special. Ranks are roughly similar to those in the Regular service, with Specials having responsibility for a different number of officers or stations.
History of the Special Constabulary
The first Special Constables occurred almost 700 years ago, when members of the local population were given powers to enforce the local laws, but were not paid. However by the 18th century, these early policemen were elected officials, much as Sheriffs are in parts of the USA. Special Constables were sworn in to assist these officials with their duties in emergencies, such as riots or large meetings. However, in some circumstances, such as the infamous Peterloo massacre, the Army, in the form of a Mounted troop, would lend assistance.
The major breakthrough for the Special Constabulary came during the war years, especially the Boer and First World Wars, when owing to large recruiting by the army, the regular police forces were having difficulty finding officers, and it was necessary to recruit Specials to fill these gaps. Then came the World War II, and once again the Special Constabulary provided an invaluable service, with it becoming a full time, paid service, for the duration of the war. After the war, the number of Specials started to drop, but another landmark in the history of the police force went past, the introduction of the first female police officers were appointed, although that is another story.
In the intervening years, some areas started to diminish the role of the Special Constabulary, and lowering the image of the officers, leading to the nickname of 'Hobby Bobbies', owing to the part time, and in some cases, unprofessional roles of the Specials. In recent years things have improved greatly for the average Special. Specials can now be found in some of the Specialist Departments of policing, and are becoming more and more involved in everyday police work.