A multi-million pound campaign to recruit thousands more volunteer police officers to the service has been met with caution by the Police Federation.
Home secretary Jacqui Smith today announced £2.25m funding to recruit 6,000 new special constables by 2011, and provide extra training and career development. But the federation, which represents rank-and-file police officers, warned that a similar “costly campaign” a few years ago was a waste of money as it only brought in up to six special officers.
Special constables are part-time officers who have all the same powers as a regular police officer but do not get paid. Some 20,000 specials currently work alongside PCSOs and police officers.
A federation spokeswoman told Personnel Today: “The federation has always been supportive of the special constabulary but there is concern that there was a costly campaign a few years back that produced very little – only five or six recruits. So from a federation point of view, it’s important that the government learns the lessons of previous campaigns on recruitment.”
Part of the funding will be used to recruit nine new regional co-ordinators, who will target the recruitment of volunteer officers.
Peter Neyroud, chief executive of the police training and technology body the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), said the co-ordinators will work closely with local forces to identify recruitment needs.
The NPIA has also developed a police leadership strategy, which will introduce particular business skills to the police curriculum, encourage better career management, and provide graduate and promotion opportunities.
Smith said special constables were a vital part of the Police Service. “They are the citizens who feel so deeply about their communities that they are prepared to put on a uniform and work alongside regular police officers and community support officers to help reduce crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour.”
The Home Office established a Special Constabulary national strategy earlier this year to standardise procedures and further develop the constabulary.