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Coronavirus (COVID-19): the policing response and what you need to know

Special Constables supporting police and public during coronavirus crisis

We’re really grateful to our Special Constables who have been putting in extra hours to help out during the current coronavirus situation.

During April our specials – volunteer police officers – gave us 7,636 hours of their time. That’s equivalent to 48 extra police officers!

This exceptional contribution in an increase of 95 per cent compared with April 2019.

“The national coronavirus emergency has highlighted the importance of volunteering and caring for the wider community.

“We always value the contribution of our Special Constabulary but over the last six weeks, volunteers in our specials team have responded in speculator style to help  bolster our policing response.

“Volunteers have always played an important role in policing, but never has there been a more important time for the police and the public to work alongside each other, reaffirming our legitimacy and the fundamental principle that we police by consent.

“The individual and collective commitment and sacrifice over recent weeks has been extraordinary. I would like to say thank you on behalf of everyone across Avon and Somerset.”

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Cullen
Special Constables at Williton police station
Special Constables and Williton police station

The Williton team of seven Special Constables worked 662 hours between them last month – the equivalent of four extra PCs.

Team member Paul Andrews has given us 133 hours since the lockdown, putting himself on the front line while unable to carry on working as self-employed driving instructor during the coronavirus crisis.

Ryan Nicholas, furloughed from his engineering day job, said: “I decided I wanted to help the local community so have been parading for duty and undertaking coronavirus patrols, reassuring the public and helping engage and educate our local community.”

Ian LeSueur,still working full time as a police dispatcher as well as giving 97 hours’ duty as a special, said: “We take pride in the fact that even though we are volunteers, we continue to feel a real part of the Williton/Minehead constabulary family and treated as equals.”

He and colleagues regularly deploy to incidents including community patrols, neighbour disputes, concern for welfare, harassment and drink or drug driving.

Special Sergeant Simon Bale MBE said: “We have helped in ensuring the lockdown has been successful whilst also dealing with ongoing crime and anti-social behaviour issues. The team of Special Constables here have also made numerous arrests in the last few weeks. We are part of the local community and are all proud to serve all those who live here.”

Williton Patrol Sergeant Tim Newman said: “Since the start of the Coronavirus lockdown our Special Constables’ already significant contribution of time has  redoubled and they have all been working long hours to support colleagues. This support has helped to make resident feel more secure as well as deter and detect crime – their efforts are greatly appreciated by all.”

“Specials have always risen to the challenge, given of their very best and supported their local communities. The current pandemic is no different – we are seeing our Specials giving of their time freely, in increased numbers and with many additional hours.

“They do so out of a sense of pride and commitment to duty; to each and every one of them I want to express a heartfelt “Thank You” for all that you do. It’s really appreciated.”

David Farrell, Chief Officer of the Special Constabulary
Special Constable Tom Whittuck
Special Constable Tom Whittuck

In Radstock, SC Tom Whittock is also able to commit more time to policing duties while furloughed.

He said: “Out on the streets, on the whole the public are appreciative and understanding of our work. A lot of the jobs we are dealing with now are people breaching the COVID-19 regulations. My family, whilst concerned that we are keeping safe, they are pleased that I am able to help the police at this difficult time.”

One incident he helped with recently showed the benefits of involving members of the community in policing.

Tom was off duty and spotted a report about a stolen vehicle on a local social media feed which linked in with a fail-to-stop incident he had been involved in. He decided to report in for duty and found the stolen vehicle abandoned near Bath.

He said the incident showed the flexibility of being a special: “At 7pm you can be sat at home wondering what to watch on TV and by 8.15pm you’re on duty and up a lane with a stolen vehicle.”

“Over the last few weeks, I have been amazed at the number of local people and organisations who have volunteered to support and help others during the coronavirus pandemic. The Special Constabulary is a wonderful example of how volunteers can make a big difference in their communities.

“The specials team has always played a vital role in helping to reduce crime and offer reassurance to local people. However, during this challenging time, they have gone above and beyond what is expected of them to support their Neighbourhood policing teams to protect our communities. Their work is an important reminder than we are stronger when we work together to help one another. I want to say a massive, personal thank you for their extraordinary hard work, dedication and commitment.”

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens