Monday 3 January 2011

A Special Writes

A guest writer, a Special Constable from the massed ranks of MSC:

When I became interested in joining the police, being an obsessive I hoovered up any and all the information about the job, the organisation, the people and the ties that I could lay my eyes on. Many of my sources were obvious, some less so. I quickly dismissed The Bill as rather glammed up. I mean seriously, how many coppers are there as good looking and wholesome as June Ackland? I devoured sites like PC Copperfield's. I read his book. And then I thought to myself "surely not!?". At my day job things get sometimes get pretty bizarre, but could the police service really be shooting itself in the foot like that?

I have been a part-timer for a couple of years now. Not long, you'll agree. I have been assigned to four different teams in that time. No sooner have I got settled into the routine and personalities of one team is it disbanded and re-created under a new brand. One PC I worked with right at the start seems to have gone full circle the other way and we are now on the same team again - miles away from where either of us was all that very short time ago. I recently had to make a "business case" for keeping my locker in the station where I
work from.

A few pointless re-brandings and re-shuffles I can handle. After all, I have - according to the recruitment process at least - sufficient Resilience to carry out my role efficiently and professionally. But it's the other ridiculous barriers that hurt. We are now no longer supposed to work with any other team than our own. If my team is not working on a day when I can, then there is apparently no policing that I can assist with. I cannot simply turn up, present myself to the duty skipper and ask if there's anything he or she needs my boots for.
Never mind that the duty skipper is invariably overjoyed to have an extra pair of boots for a few hours. Never mind that working with different teams is good for the soul and the Personal Development Plan. It is verboten and I will be shouted at.

When I started I busted a gut to experience as much of the world of policing as I could. I did not want to be that special who didn't know what to do in a particular situation. I did not want to be the one who shied away from getting involved in something for fear of embarrassing himself. I wanted to be the special who was trusted not to wander off or make a difficult situation worse by saying the wrong thing. In my first year I was one of the hardest working - in terms of hours - specials in my division. I had the spreadsheet to prove it. But then it started to get harder. Having got used to supervising less-experienced specials I was suddenly not allowed to go out on my own. Having got used to working most weekends I found myself restricted in the shifts I could work. I spend more time being annoyed about the pointless hoops than I do actually out on the street. My hours have collapsed and the enthusiasm gets harder to muster.

Who benefits from all this? I don't know. There must be someone making something out of it or otherwise things would be left alone. Is the police service really shooting itself in the foot? If the frequency of my handing-in-my-warrant-card fantasies is anything to go by then oh boy.


Anonymous said...

I hate to say it but you must be the exception that proves the rule then! I have to work with specials on a twice weekly basis and I dread every shift with them. The ones we have are too young (18yr olds) and do not listen to us regulars, they think its all blue lights and fights and one even asked "can I gas her?" in regard to some drunk. Not one of them has ever asked any of us regulars a job related question unless you count the one above and refuse to listen to good advice about statements, cuffing techniques and tricks of the trade.
Its policing for free but it will all go horribly wrong very soon-I have seen some terrible things done by specials and just because you stick someone in a unform it doesn't mean they are policing!
Sorry to do this anon but you never know who is reading these days!

Anonymous said...

Nice post. Interesting read.

It a shame re the comments and experiences of anon (above)

I guess you'll get those types of people in any job, lazy regulars, lazy front office staff, lazy plumbers and so on and so forth. The thing is, the Police service does attract muppets and yes the lights, fights and cuffs excite them. Sadly, it's these people who give the other, hard working, dedicated Specials a bad name.

I've been a Special for six years. I love it. I know everyone at the station I work at and they all know me. When I'm on duty, it's like they have an extra PC. I'll do anything and go anywhere to help. There's a lot of us out there.

The officers who join for the glory wont stay long. They'll be booted or they'll realise that they actually need to pull their weight and go anyway.

Keep up the good work.

Stressed Out Cop said...

Specials have come a long way from mooching around at community events.

Extra boots are always welcome on response where I work ... but our management have ensured the correct training is there for them. It is cheap policing and should attract a bounty reward like the TA

You moved then ? don't blame you.

Anonymous said...

As a serving special of nearly 4 years in a very small force (which rejected me as a regular last year because i was not resilient enough, but still come on and do the job for free)I love the job and do alot of hours due to being made redundant from my full time job. (The force i work for also has now got rid of all food allowances so now i have to pay to be a Special)
I deal with events single crewed, put files together and enjoy helping the regulars but i feel i am one of the lucky ones who when i went to the recruitment evening was told you get out what you put in and i find that is a fact.
I have worked with numerous different regulars and taken on board all the different styles and techniques they have which has benefitted me no end.
And with the no recruiting and numerous more specials coming through some very young and some who have no common sense it will go terribly wrong and has done in my short time with the specials and the good work the few do is destroyed by maybe one who has no concept and just is in it like somone said for the fighting and the blue light runs!

The Author said...

Thanks for the comments people. It's interesting that most have said they have had bad experience with some specials. It seems to be a rule of policing that if PC X makes a mistake the PC X is branded a bit of a liability. If SC Y makes a mistake then every single special is branded a complete liability. It's not right, but it seems to go unchallenged.

Seeing this post in black and white it looks like more of a whinge than it was intended to be!

Anon2 is right, you get out what you put in. Maybe I am just not putting in enough to get as much out as I feel I should be. Some SCs work crazy amounts. Alas I cannot work any harder than I already do. Maybe that just isn't enough.

taffy said...

You clearly had your head screwed on from the start. Taking any ties you find lying round the nick smoothly and quietly is an essential "core competency", in metroland at least.

Now many forces have gone to tshirts and pda's, what goes walkies now there are no pens or ties sitting unattended?

Anonymous said...


This email is for all officers who were attested or commenced their training prior to the 1st April 2010 and are on the 'old' style IPS.

All officers should be IPS within 12 to 18 months of their attestation. For many officers this has now elapsed so we must get you to IPS as soon as possible! To achieve this we need your commitment and engagement with the new teams.

Please make it your priority to reply to emails that are being sent to you, place yourself on duties they are putting on MSC online and attend meetings so you know what is going on. This is all for your benefit.

The SMT want officers to achieve IPS this year. We have to, to be able to be operational competent for 2012. They are doing all they can to help you with support and guidance with these new officers being given roles for the next 12 months.

Please do not let me down!!!!

Kind Regards

Straight from the pages of "How to make friends and influence people".

Hogdayafternoon said...

I used to train SC's on their initial weekend courses. You could see the cowboys a mile off, rolling up in their cars, flat cap on the rear shelf etc, one even had a VHF radio tuned in to a job frequency and turned up full, broadcasting r/t chit chat as he drove along, living out his fantasy. That guy was stopped in his tracks pdq by yours truly. Every station will have one or two. I echo SOC's commnets, pay them a decent rate a la TA. Forces I visited in the US would have their reservists called up on high days and bank holidays to bolster the numbers and you could not tell them apart at first glance, so we've got that bit sorted, we just need to commit to professionalism. But then again, a `reservist system` might lead to the means to scale down forces even further - beware of what you wish for.

Mad Mick said...

Anons comments at 2242 could easily be applied to a number of regulars I have seen. I have been frontline for the last 15 years and have worked with some of the most dedicated and professional officers, who never got paid, I should ever hope to meet. Yes, there have been a couple of cowboys but as I said, that could equally apply to some regulars. There used to be an advert on the tv for police where some minor celeb showed footage of the police and ended with "I couldnt do that". Well, doing this job without the full support of colleagues or the pay - nor could I. Thank you all specials.

Old BE said...

I can empathise entirely with the author. This kind of nonsense is everywhere at the company I work for, too.

However, can we have a less serious post next so I can post c0ck jokes in the comments?

Anonymous said...

I've posted a snippet over here: with a link back

Anonymous said...

Plenty of things I could add but in a nutshell "grow a pair".

You want things to happen? Make them happen yourself, don't just mope about it. It's the one thing that probably accounts for at least half the (stupidly high) dropout rate in the MSC: assuming that you'll arrive, and you'll have your hand held, and that everyone will be looking out for you and drawing up an in-depth, bespoke training and development plan tailored just for you. Then they arrive on BOCU and realise everything's a shambles, the base skippers live in a squalid mess and people are just trying to get by as best they can. So they go "oh, I expected more" and leave.

Who's made this decision then? And why? And who can change things around? You need to convince the powers that be of the necessity of the MSC resources to the borough. And what you can do. And what you need from them. Is there someone doing that already? Making contacts that matter, getting to know the right people, selling the unit? No? Then do it yourself.

If it's a decision made by your skipper, then that's nonsense. If you want things to happen, you need to start at the top. Speak to your line chief inspector for starters. Ask him what the rationale is. Tell him that specials are being frustrated by lack of flexibility and that this is hampering your ability to do your jobs properly - and therefore reducing the value of the MSC unit. Get a jobsworth answer? Go and ask the borough commander for a meeting. Ask him if the MSC has the explicit support of the SMT. They'll say "yes" - because they have to. Tell them "Sirs, that's excellent news, now what can you do as the senior management team to maximise our potential because at the moment we have limited scope to develop". Find out what other boroughs are doing - let the SMT know. If you've got a jobsworth skipper and/or inspector, take them out of the equation. Smile. Look eager. Most of the SMT won't have ever met any specials - all they will know is the cynical, clockwatching PCs and sergeants who won't lift a finger past the end of the shift unless their overtime is confirmed (and consequently will rot on response team for most of their career). Bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed happy eager-to-learn-and-make-things-happen specials will be an entirely new concept to them. If you make your concerns felt, then things can start to move. Again - don't expect them to do all the work. You'll need to badger them for meetings. Ask them HOW they will provide further chances to work with response teams. Ask them HOW they will emulate other boroughs (find out which boroughs have the lowest dropout rates, highest average monthly hours, highest arrest rates, etc - and use them as something to aspire to).

If you don't ask, you don't get. Half the SMT are in the positions they're in because they know this. They've got the thick skins required to ward off the whispers-behind-their-backs when they applied for promotion with three years in. And got promoted again two years later. That's how the system works. You can either drown in a sea of your own woe, or make things happen.

If the SMT don't deliver (bearing in mind that they won't personally do anything, just wave a magic wand and allow others to do it) then go upstairs again to MSC OCU. The key to all this, however, is definitely having the right spokesperson. Somebody personable. Somebody who looks older than twelve. Somebody with gravitas, energy and a speck of personality. If you can't find a special anywhere that fits that description, you need somewhere new.

As for 2242, "they think it's all blue lights and fights"? So in that inevitable silence when a sudden death, S-grade domestic or misper report goes out over the radio, you're always the first to pipe up, right? Thought not.

Anonymous said...

anon 15:53- you really, really don't know what you're talking about there, you don't even know what team I'm on! Don't think you know how I am because of my post, I said what I've found to be the case and I am honestly not exaggerating. My team has a massive intake of specials, most of whom never turn up and the rest have their own idea of what they think the job is and are not prepared to listen to me or any other regular, regardless of their length of service. The job is f*cked at the moment and it will show sooner rather than later imo, God help us all during the Olympics!

My opinion of specials is not one I'd choose to have, I have a good friend who has just joined but the truth will out.

Numpty said...


@"grow a pair"

That is very easy to say, but I think the idea of complaining to the Borough Commander is laughable. My understanding is that as a disciplined organisation suggestions and criticisms are supposed to go via one's line manager. I doubt very much that the Borough Commander where I work would appreciate me knocking on his door or demanding a meeting. And what is the Volunteers OCU going to say when it sounds like the poster is complaining about the new IPS system which the Volunteers OCU has introduced?!

I have to say from my own experience, if an officer feels like he is hitting a brick wall a change of team can make all the difference. As many of the people on this forum know, I was fairly hacked off until I moved and now I am the happiest keenest SC around!

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English Pensioner said...

My daughter has worked for the police civil staff for 22 years (and got an award when the officers got their medals), and has recently joined the specials.
I suspect she was encouraged to do so because it means that they now have a female officer available at the station during normal working hours, should one be required, as sex equality laws apparently prevent full time female officers being kept at the station and not given the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

Anonymous said...

Ohh soooooo true. Brilliant written too. Luckily my force isn't too bad and I email the skipper, turn up and have a good time.

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