Since January 2021, Gwent Police’s 75 special constables have volunteered a combined total of 21,873 hours. That’s more hours per volunteer than any other police force in the region.
Special constables have the same powers as regular officers. They wear a similar uniform, carry the same equipment, and receive the same training. Aged from 18 upwards, they support regular officers in a variety of day-to-day police work: foot patrols to tackle anti-social behaviour and deter criminals, responding to reports of missing people, and keeping communities safe in many ways.
Some also train to work within specialist policing teams such as roads policing and protecting vulnerable people. Others use their skills to support in areas of expertise, like cyber-crime.
‘Specials’ are required to dedicate at least 16 hours of volunteer service per month, but many of Gwent’s special constables contribute many more hours than this.
Gwent Police’s specials have day jobs in multiple industries including IT, food production, teaching, the airline industry, administration, hospitality, and the public sector. Some are students, some are full time carers, and some are retired. They represent different nationalities, religions, home towns, and ethnic backgrounds.
Lou is a special sergeant for Gwent Police. She’s been a special for nearly 2 years.
“I come from a customer service and sales background, and I thought that you had to join the police as a young person – but that’s just not true.
“Being an older special is not a bad thing at all – I’ve walked into the role with more maturity and plenty of life experience.
“The role of special policing is not so much about being ‘savvy’ – instead it’s about putting yourself in the shoes of the person you’re dealing with. If you can talk to someone and understand the situation that is causing them an issue, you can help put it right.
“If you’re thinking of joining the police as a special, remember that this is a totally unique volunteer role. Nothing else comes close to it, and it is important to be committed to your training. Life as a special will influence the way you see the world.
“And what will volunteering as a special give to you? Confidence, a feeling of empowerment, personal growth, a respected role in a wonderful team, and amazing experiences. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for my policing team.”
Owen was one of the first cohort to study the BSc (Hons) Professional Policing degree course at the University of South Wales, Pontypridd. He has committed more than 1000 hours as a special constable in the past year, and recently graduated with a First class degree.
“Being a student in Professional Policing during Covid-19 allowed me to take on a full-time role as a special constable alongside my studies.
“In my two years as a special, I’ve done the same duties as a full-time officer, and made amazing friendships.
“Before studying and becoming a special, I worked in retail for two years, and have previously volunteered in a banking role. Volunteers can have a huge impact in their community.
“As a special, you have more time and capacity to commit to things that matter to you. The role of special constable can be difficult and stressful, but when I go home (even after a bad week), I think about the things I’ve done as part of the job, and I feel proud and fulfilled.
“Volunteering as a special is a big commitment, and it’s important to do some research and understand what you’re walking into. Speak to people who are already volunteering as specials, and if it’s still the role for you, jump right in with an open mind, get to know the community you’re working in, and never be put off by a bad week. Remember that you get back what you put in: grab hold of every opportunity, and you’ll learn loads along the way.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Gareth is a Special Inspector, and works full time in graphic design and digital.
“Joining Gwent Police as a special was the perfect solution for me: I can carry on working in a day job I love, and volunteer my time in a policing role.
“What do I like best about my role as a special? Well, I’ve met some of my very closest friends through this role - I don’t think I would ever have crossed paths with them outside of the specials.
“What else? The variety: all the things that I get to do that I wouldn’t have a chance to do as a civilian. I sometimes work with the police dog section, and sometimes on our roads policing team. I’ve worked at a Little Mix concert, on Pride marches in Cardiff, and given policing support at a royal visit.
“My training as a special has given me the skills to deal with problems in a calm, structured way. I like being part of the police family. I’m here because I want to be, not to pick up a pay cheque. When I put on my specials uniform, I’m a role model – but I’m also just a normal person who has decided to sign up for something a bit more.
“If you’re thinking of volunteering as a special, my message is do it - but don’t come into it thinking it’s a doddle. It isn’t. As specials, we decide when we work, not how we work. We work to the same high standards, and with the same protocols, as regular police officers – and we gain skills and confidence which make our day to day lives so much more valuable.”
Chief Inspector Amanda Thomas leads on Gwent Police’s Partnerships.
Opening Gwent’s latest round of recruitment for special constables, she said:
“There’s no such thing as a typical special constable.
“Every ‘special’ brings something unique to the team, but they all share the same goal: to give their time and skills to help make Gwent’s communities safer, more cohesive places.
“If you can commit 16 hours a month, enjoy a challenge and solving problems, and want to help keep your community safe and make life-long friendships, we want to hear from you.”
Volunteering hours are flexible, and you can fit your time around your personal commitments.