Meet the volunteer police ‘Specials’ keeping the county safe

Cambridgeshire Constabulary volunteer ‘Specials’ put in shifts totalling more than 45,000 hours in 2020 – 4,000 more than...

Cambridgeshire Constabulary volunteer ‘Specials’ put in shifts totalling more than 45,000 hours in 2020 – 4,000 more than in 2019. - Credit: Cambridgeshire Constabulary  

While most of us have stayed at home a lot more over the past year, some have done the opposite, and all in the name of keeping Cambridgeshire safe. 

The voluntary police officers of the county’s Special Constabulary, or Specials as they are known, put in shifts totalling more than 45,000 hours in 2020 - 4000 more than in 2019. 

They attended more than 2,600 incidents and made or assisted 686 arrests. 

Some Specials, such as 32-year-old hairdresser and mum-of-two Heather Anderson, have been able to dedicate extra hours to policing because their regular work has been put on hold by the pandemic. 

In January, she completed more than 80 hours of shifts – more than five times the expected hours for a Special. 

She said: “I have a busy life with my career and two children but becoming a Special was something I really wanted to do.  

“The training was more intense than I expected and you have to put in the hours but you just make it work.” 

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Zoe Wickison, 22, a legal secretary, was furloughed in March last year and ended up volunteering full time for six months.   

Cambridgeshire Constabulary Specials officer Zoe Wickison.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary Specials officer Zoe Wickison. - Credit: Cambs Cops

It meant that instead of the 200 hours of shifts she would expect to do in a year under normal circumstances, she did more than 1400 hours. 

Zoe said: “I love knowing I’m doing my bit for the local community and that I am able to make a difference to people’s lives and help those in need.” 

Mother-of-two Jacqueline Kelly, 55, has been a Special for 18 months.  

Cambridgeshire Constabulary Specials officer Jacqueline Kelly with daughter PC Charlie-Ann Brett.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary Specials officer Jacqueline Kelly with daughter PC Charlie-Ann Brett. - Credit: Cambs Cops

She manages an emergency control room for US Air Force fire and medic teams but works shifts so she can fit policing in. 

Jacqueline, whose daughter Charlie-Ann Brett started as a Special but is now a police officer in Cambridgeshire, said lockdown was an ideal time to get out there and do something good. 

She said: “I was happy to support the constabulary and not just be stuck indoors. I completed 800 hours last year, four times more than required. 

“The skills and knowledge I picked up have been amazing and applied in my own life and career and I hope to continue to learn, grow and support the constabulary in an ever-changing world for as long I am able.” 

Electrician and father-of-two Richard Johnson, 38, was furloughed during the first lockdown and took the opportunity to start his Specials training.  

Cambridgeshire Constabulary Specials officer Richard Johnson.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary Specials officer Richard Johnson. - Credit: Cambs Cops

Now he’s back at work but doing policing shifts at weekends. 

He said: "I enjoy how the role is so varied and that everyday and every shift is always different and never the same.  

“I really enjoy interacting and engaging with different people and members of the public and being the first person that someone will talk to in a time of need and help sometimes good and sometimes bad." 

Heather, Jacqueline, Zoe and Richard are part of a campaign the force is launching to promote the work of Specials and encourage more people to join. 

Specials have full police powers and agree to dedicate a minimum of 16 hours a month to training or operational duties. They operate in a whole range of policing roles, including specialist areas. 

They receive professional training, skills and experience that can be used in everyday life and career progression.  

And while many are happy to volunteer alongside their regular careers and remain Specials, some see it as a stepping stone into a career as a regular officer. 

Chief Constable Nick Dean said: “The Covid pandemic have taken its toll on everyone, through restrictions in private lives and the work environment, and the pressure on all emergency services personnel has been immense.  

“That’s why it is all the more remarkable that some have willingly put themselves forward to volunteer on the front line throughout this period. 

“More than 45,000 hours supporting policing in the county is a fantastic and vital contribution and I would like to thank all our Specials for what they do.  

“They have supported our efforts to fight crime and keep people safe in Cambridgeshire at a time when it really was needed and I hope they act as inspiration to others who may want to get involved in policing.” 

In 2020, Specials contributed to policing the county through: 

  • Working 45,317 hours 
  • Completing 6573 shifts 
  • Launching 729 investigations 
  • Stopping 1737 vehicles 
  • Attending 2655 incidents 
  • Making or assisting 686 arrests 

The force is looking for more people to become Specials and also employers to sign up to a scheme which sees them support their staff to volunteer. 

Employer Supported Policing (ESP) asks employers to promote the role of the Special constable in their organisation, while granting those who do sign up additional leave days to help them meet duty commitments.  

In return, the organisation will benefit from staff who have received a unique training package, worth several thousand pounds and covering a wide range of skills, many of which are transferable to the workplace.  

For more information on becoming a Special or signing up to ESP, visit: