Number of special constables in Bedfordshire slumps over past decade
Increases in workloads have made it impossible for some officers to volunteer alongside their day jobs
The number of special constables working alongside police officers in Bedfordshire has fallen by nearly a third over the past decade, figures reveal.
Increases in workloads have made it impossible for some of the officers in England and Wales to volunteer alongside their day jobs, claims the Police Federation.
The Association of Special Constabulary Officers has described a significant fall in numbers across the two nations as a "huge loss" to policing.
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Home Office data shows Bedfordshire Police had 155 special constables in March this year – up from 132 the year before.
However, it represents a (30 per cent) drop compared to 2011, when there were 222.
The officers, also known as 'specials', hold the same powers as police constables and work a minimum of 16 hours a month as volunteers.
Bedfordshire Police's chief inspector Mark Farrant said: “Our special constables are a huge support to us as a force as they volunteer hundreds of hours a year, carrying out work such as speeding checks, arrests, concerns for welfare visits and breathalyser tests. This all helps with the huge pressures our officers face on a daily basis.
“Specials now not only work within response, but are also integrated within our community policing teams. This means that by working directly with our communities they are helping with gathering intel, execute closure orders and reassurance visits and this is making a huge impact.”
A fall in the number of specials within Bedfordshire Police over the decade came alongside a 10 per cent increase in full-time police officers, helped by a Government-backed recruitment campaign for 20,000 more officers nationally by 2023.
Across England and Wales, the number of special officers has reduced by more than half over the past decade, from 18,421 in 2011 to 9,174 this year.
During the period the number peaked at 20,343 in 2012 – following the end of a three-year national recruitment programme – but has since fallen year-on-year.
The Police Federation for England and Wales said a recent focus on recruiting more paid police officers, including some former specials, and an increase in workload for the volunteer officers were behind the demise in numbers.
Chairman John Apter said: “More and more has been expected of special constables.
“These extra pressures have caused some to leave the service, as they cannot juggle their day jobs with what is expected of them.”
The ASCO has called for a national recruitment campaign for more specials, claiming they provide "enormous value" to community policing, as shown during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Chairman David Pedrick-Friend said: “The reduction in numbers represent a huge loss to policing and we must all work together to urgently reverse this trend."
The Home Office said it was working closely with police forces to help attract, recruit and retain more special constables.
For more information about specials in the county visit here