Category Archives: Recruitment

“It is more than just a way to spend your spare time; it’s another career and can be a completely different way of life to what you’re used to”

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Chemist Louisa Bellis explains what it’s like being a Special

Being a Special Constable is like nothing I could have ever imagined or predicted. When I started the application process in 2010, I knew that I was interested in being a police officer, but I didn’t know if I would be a ‘good fit’ for the Force, or even if it would be something that I would ultimately enjoy or be good at. However, literally an hour into my first shift in January 2012 I knew it was for me and haven’t looked back since. 2,400+ operational hours later and I am still hooked and full of enthusiasm, wanting to do more.

I had always been interested in policing and law & order, and in my younger days had briefly thought about being an officer, but science won out and I headed off to university to study chemistry. After finishing my PhD, I was employed at a company where I had to travel frequently and never had much spare time. When I moved to Cambridgeshire from Yorkshire in 2009 for a new job, I suddenly found that I had a lot more free time and I started to consider constructive and rewarding ways that I could fill it. Whilst I was looking at volunteering positions, I remembered seeing an advertisement for being a Special Constable on television with the tagline of ‘Could You?’, which sparked my long-forgotten memories of wanting to be a police officer. Once I had investigated what being a Special Constable would entail, I knew instantly that was the direction I wanted to go in. The application and interview process was the most intensive that I have experienced (yes, even more so than applying for a PhD in chemistry!) and after being a police officer for the past three years, I can see why this is necessary. The process may be long and in-depth, but it is definitely worthwhile.

After attestation, I spent just under a year working with a shift in Cambridge City on the Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT). This was an incredible eye-opener as to what goes on in the world that, generally, you are not exposed to except through the media, and even then it’s in a diluted format. In this team, you deal with anything from a simple Saturday shoplifting job to a vicious, drunken assault outside a nightclub. I loved my time in SNT, but I was always pulled towards the two and four-wheeled side of policing, also known as the Road Policing Unit (RPU). After applying and sitting the qualifying boards, I was accepted into RPU and this is where I have been for just over 2 years. My shifts with RPU are mostly made up of road traffic collisions (RTCs), speed enforcement and general patrols on the main arterial routes around Cambridgeshire. I have dealt with many broken down cars, which can involve literally pushing a car around a roundabout into a petrol station, or pushing them off the main road onto the grass verge (and slipping into the mud for my troubles) or protecting colleagues on the main roads by directing traffic around them whilst they help members of the public. I have attended more collisions than I can count, all of differing severity. I have no shame in telling people that some of these collisions have affected me emotionally afterwards, but the support that you are given by your regular colleagues is amazing and you never feel like you have to deal with things alone. On the flip side, I’ve been to more jobs that have been uplifting where I’ve walked away believing that I have helped or a made a difference in some small way.

It is more than just a way to spend your spare time; it’s another career and can be a completely different way of life to what you’re used to. It infiltrates everything you do; from the way you interact with people, to the experiences it gives you that no other job can. My day-to-day life as a scientist has given me the skills to be analytical and gather information before making decisions. This has come in handy when I have had to investigate crimes and offences. Another skill that I brought from my day job to the police was the ability to sit back and listen to people, which is very important when you are faced with members of the public who are distressed or angry.

However, it’s not all about what you can bring to the job, it’s also about what you can get out of it. In fact, my overall confidence has been increased, due to having to deal with such a variation of jobs and people and having to react immediately to whatever is thrown at you. It’s also made me more relaxed about situations and stopped me taking insults and criticisms personally. When you are a Special, you work alongside other Specials, either on shift or at various operations. For me, this has led to meeting some great people, some of whom I now consider to be my best friends. You are able to bond over shared experiences, such as juggling a full time job with carrying out hours as an officer. This can be tiring and mean that you miss out on a social life, but having a support network of people in a similar situation makes it a lot easier.

Specials are often used to train the new regular officers, new PCSOs, new Specials and even the Police Support Unit. This can involve you helping with role-plays or even pretending to be part of a violent disorder group. Days like these can be a lot of fun and you get to meet a lot of people. You also have the freedom to take part in interesting operations, such as traffic enforcement alongside VOSA and HM Customs, plain-clothes burglary patrols and drugs warrants. If football is your thing, Specials are frequently asked to help out at local football matches. A couple of operations that will stay with me are marshalling the Olympic Flame tour back in 2012 and the Tour De France in 2014, both of which were fabulous experiences that I couldn’t have got from anywhere else and the memories will last a lifetime.

Ultimately, being a Special Constable has changed me as a person, for the better. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ role and it isn’t for everyone, but I would urge people to try it out. I wouldn’t change any of the experiences that I have had for anything, as it’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done and I expect to continue for many years yet. For me, it gives me the best of both worlds. I get to be a scientist by day, which I love, and I get to be a police officer in the evenings and weekends, which I also love. I don’t have to choose between them and I get to enjoy having two careers at the same time. How many people can say that?

For more on becoming a Special visit here HERE

The challenges of dealing with a major incident

top-picIn her latest blog, new Special Constable Jodie Hayes describes the challenges and excitement of being involved in a major incident simulation exercise. 

The last few months on the beat have just been a whirlwind of different emotions. Even after nearly 17 weeks as a warranted officer, I still get a huge sense of pride when I put on my uniform. I have taken part in many different training days and events since my last blog.

The first was a simulated major incident with the fire service and East of England Ambulance. We hadn’t been given much detail about the day as they wanted to make it as real as possible, which naturally made me nervous!

I met up with four other officers from the force, as well as paramedics, firefighters, role-players and safety officers. As soon as I walked into the briefing room, the actors were covered in blood so I knew it was going to be something serious. The nerves, anticipation and adrenaline kicked in, and within half an hour we were out in the police cars waiting to be dispatched. Myself and my colleague were called on first and rushed to the scene on blue lights and sirens. When we pulled up at the location, we were faced with a heavy goods lorry that had collided with four vehicles. As we approached, we could hear people screaming.

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One vehicle was on its roof behind the lorry and had a young boy in the passenger seat who was unresponsive. Two vehicles had collided and one male had gone through the windscreen and was now lying on the bonnet. Although I knew it was only a simulation, I was terrified about doing the right thing and making sure that I did as much as I could to make sure everybody was safe. We updated control to explain what we saw and urgently requested that ambulance and the fire service were called.

Once that was done, I approached the young boy who was in the overturned car. He was covered in blood and there was smashed glass everywhere. I began talking to him and tried to gain as much information as I could, whilst still making sure my fellow colleagues were safe. It was quite a surreal experience because I had never been to a major incident before. As ambulance arrived, I was informed by a colleague that there was a moped underneath the lorry without a rider, which instantly made me panic. This meant that there was a victim who was unaccounted for.

Once the missing victim was found and my fellow officers assisted the fire crews and paramedics, I went over to another vehicle that had collided with the lorry and was now in the middle of a field. I went and spoke to him and managed to get into the back seat of the vehicle through an open window. I sat and supported his head while the paramedics did their checks, which determined that he had a possible spinal injury. As the car had been crushed during the collision, the fire fighters had to smash all of the windows and take the roof off the car, with me inside!

I learned so much during the simulation, not only from a police point of view, but also from a firefighter and ambulance point of view. It also gave me the confidence to know that if I did attend something like that during a shift, I could deal with it in an informed way.

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The second event I attended was a memorial service for fallen Specials at the National Arboretum. It was something I really wanted to go to, especially given how many police officers have died over the past few years. When you join the police, you also become a member of the police family and it becomes a very important part of your career. I drove up to Staffordshire with my sergeant and we had a bit of lunch before the service began. Officers and civilians had come from all parts of the country to show their support and it filled me with a huge sense of pride. Once the service was finished, we marched with a band down to the memorial and each constabulary laid a wreath in respect. It was very moving to know that so many officers, like myself, had made the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect the public. Becoming a Special has given me the opportunity to make memories, gain experience and has given so much many life skills I can use not only in my career, but my personal life too.

For more on becoming a Special, visit our Specials page

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Jodie with Special Sergeant Paul Jenkins

New Special Jodie makes her first arrest

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In the third of a series of blogs by new Special constable Jodie Hayes, the 21 year old takes us through her second shift in which she makes her first arrest.

It’s so strange to think that I only graduated eight weeks ago, but the amount I have learned since then is remarkable.

My second shift on the beat was a little less nerve-wracking that the first – I’d gotten over the initial fear of my first duty and now felt like I was ready to face whatever came my way. I managed to find the locker room without having to ask this time and made sure to pick up a radio with all the right parts on it!

Briefing was at 21:00 and within minutes we were called to an incident of anti-social behaviour. It was a dispute between two neighbours and that had been an ongoing feud for many years. After filling out my first piece of paperwork with a victim we were on our way back to the station when we noticed a car driving recklessly in front of us. After running its number plate through our police computer, we were told the vehicle didn’t hold insurance. We stopped the car and had a chat with the driver, who assured us that she had insurance on the vehicle.

Just as we were about to conduct more checks to determine whether she was telling us the truth, we were asked to attend an RTC where a young male had collided with a car and come off his motorbike. We rushed back to the car and sped away on blue lights, reaching 140mph and managing to reach St Neots from Yaxely in nine-and-a-half minutes!

When we arrived we spoke to the paramedics before assisting them to secure the young man onto the stretcher. He had sustained a fractured pelvis and a possible spinal injury, meaning we had to be extremely careful! I have never been in any kind of road collision before so it was a new and surreal experience. For the first time I realised how much the public rely on us in their time of need and what an amazing and remarkable job being a Special is.

Since then, I have done another 10 shifts and things are beginning to settle and become more natural. Wearing the uniform is something that takes a while to get used to but still fills me with excitement every time I walk into the locker room.

I have since also made my first arrest, which has been the best part of my shifts so far! We had been asked to go and do an arrest attempt – these are issued when suspects are not arrested at the time of the crime. It was around four o’clock in the morning when we arrived outside the suspect’s house, who was wanted for assaulting a male and his mother with a baseball bat. It was the first time I had ever considered the fact that I might have to use my protective equipment. It was a surreal thought but I knew I had been trained well and this would kick in if I needed it.

We approached the house and knocked on the door and the man answered a few minutes later. He was half asleep, which was in our favour as he seemed calm. We asked him to confirm his name, before I arrested him on suspicion of actual bodily harm. It was the first time I had said the caution since training and was worried I wouldn’t remember it, but luckily I did it without any trouble. I hand-cuffed him and escorted him into the back of the van, before we took him to Thorpe Wood Police Station. I had a sigh of relief once he was booked into custody and my first arrest was done.

Being a Special has already filled me with so much confidence and given me so many life skills that I never thought I needed. It also makes you carry yourself with so much pride, knowing that you are trusted with a job like this.

More on becoming a Special

 

 

“An experience like no other” – Tim’s Special role

Tesco employee Tim Everett takes us into the varied, challenging and rewarding role of the Special constable.

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I love being a Special. It is an experience like no other. It can be testing, stressful and even heart-wrenching at times but it can lead you to develop a new side of yourself – perhaps one you never knew you were capable of. It has also helped me develop confidence and skills that I regularly use elsewhere in my life.

I have been a Special constable for around two years now and it is something that I manage fit around my full-time job in a supermarket. For me, joining the specials was getting to know what the role of the police is and what they do on a day-to-day basis. Over the past two years I’ve seen all sorts of things, including violent crime and thefts, sexual assaults, domestic abuse, missing persons and people with mental health issues, burglaries and traffic offences. I’ve seen a lot, but am yet to see it all. This has given me a greater insight into what goes unseen in my community.

One incident that stands out in my mind was when a colleague and I were trying to find a teenage boy in a park in the middle of the night. His mother had called in to say that he had gone missing, had had suicidal thoughts and made threats to end his own life. We happened to be very close by and looked for the boy in a wooded area. Whilst searching and being joined by others, another colleague spotted him and we all sprinted towards him. He had managed to tie a belt around his neck and looped the other end around the tree and was about to jump off the bench he was standing on. The first colleague to get to him supported his weight from the bottom so he couldn’t jump and, as I was the second officer to get to him, I climbed up and cut the noose off from the tree. The whole incident was over in a flash and I was relieved we got to him in time. Afterwards I waited with the teenage boy while his mother and an ambulance had been called. He appeared to be very depressed and didn’t want to say anything. I tried to strike up a conversation with him and at first he wasn’t very responsive but in the end with the help of one of the paramedics we got him talking. The teenager went with me and his mother in the ambulance to the local mental health hospital where he could get the appropriate assessment and help that he required.

More recently I have been assigned the role of Parish Special Constable – a new role for the village of Gamlingay. So far it has involved getting to know the area, the people, the issues they may have and attending parish council meetings.

A typical day for me involves going to work early, having a shorter work day, going to the police station to get kitted up and head over to Gamlingay. I go out on foot patrol around the village and might stop to have chat with villagers. Some will pass on concerns or information about suspicious behaviour or offences being committed. I patrol some of the known anti-social behaviour spots and also carry out some speed checks at locations where accidents or excessive speed occurs. Other times there may be a specific event that the residents have asked me to attend like a fete, funeral or large gathering. It is a nice and positive experience speaking with people who are happy to see and speak to the police.

For more on becoming a Special, see HERE

 

 

 

From Warsaw to Cambridgeshire – Aga’s Special story

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As a girl growing up in her native Poland, Special Constable Aga Strykier always wanted to work for the police. But she wanted to study first and after rejecting an offer to read law at university, left her family in Warsaw to come to the UK in 2009 at the tender age of 19.

She had learnt rudimentary English at school but knuckled down to master the language just before travelling to the UK to read criminology, and eventually law, at Aberystwyth University. Aga was not daunted by the prospect of leaving her family behind, preferring to see it as a challenge.

After graduating, she completed a Masters Degree in trans-national crime at Anglia Ruskin University and then applied to become a Special.

Now 25, Aga is a Special of some experience, having worked on exploitation in Fenland and in the domestic abuse investigation and safeguarding unit in Peterborough, but her main duties are on reactive patrols in Cambridge.

“I always wanted to work for the police, hence the choice of my studies, and seeing the opportunity to become a Special at the end of my Masters just seemed perfect.

“The training was absolutely amazing. It went very quickly. I got to meet new people with the same interests and passions and make new friends for life. Training is very convenient for anyone who has a full time position as it’s held evenings and weekends. There is a lot to learn but the instructors are always there to help.

“Once you become a Special, you get to know your colleagues and you become friends. Everyone looks after you and helps you get new experiences and learn more.

“Every moment while on duty makes me feel proud and you get such a great feeling when you arrive at the scene of a crime and you can help the victim and then catch the suspect.

“I feel very satisfied after doing good things and I know that I have not wasted my evening sitting in front of the TV: I prevented burglaries, I found a missing person, we got the evidence to prosecute the offender, we stopped a fight.

“My proudest moment was after my first arrest and the feeling it gave me.”

Aga has now begun the process of becoming a regular officer but is undecided as she has had a job in the force’s Central Intelligence Bureau and is about to move to the Beds, Cambs and Herts Major Crime Unit, where she will be an indexer.

She will use her time off between jobs this month to visit her family.

“I have gained so many different skills that can be transferred to everyday life”, Aga added.

“I always wanted to work for the police, both for the satisfaction of helping the public and for the excitement of the job. No day is ever the same and you never know what will be the next call from the control room. You never know what to expect and you’re learning every day.

“I would definitely advise other people to apply to become a Special. I’m absolutely loving it and it’s the best experience I have ever had. If you are a motivated person who actually wants to give something back to the community and learn and experience new things, this is definitely the place for you.”

Click here for more on becoming a Special

 

 

The “indescribable buzz” of being a Special

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Louisa Bellis has two careers that she loves – research scientist and Special. This results in 16-hour working days but her work on the road policing unit gives her an “indescribable buzz” she wouldn’t change for anything. For more on becoming a Special see HERE

My weekday normally starts when my alarm goes off at 6.20am. I get up and make some breakfast to eat whilst doing my morning surf of the Internet. I like to use this time to catch up on overnight worldly occurrences and any emails I may have been sent. Police officers work 24 hours a day, so you often wake up to an email sent to you at 2am! Once the caffeine has kicked in, I can get up and start to get ready for my main job.

I work as a cheminformatic scientist at an international research company. I got this position after I completed my PhD in anticancer drug design. I had always been interested in science, but equally had a passion for policing. I had to make a decision at 18 years old as to which path I should take and I chose university to study chemistry. After completing my degrees and working for a few years in my chosen field, I found myself with free time and wondered how best I could utilise it. I remembered seeing television adverts about being a Special Constable (“Could You?”) and after a quick Internet search; I found the application form for Cambridgeshire Constabulary. I am now in the very fortunate position that I get to have two careers that I love – something that not everyone can say.

A normal day consists of researching into the data that we store in the database, as well as answering email questions from external users. It can be a mentally taxing job sometimes, as you have to have great attention to detail and broad knowledge of chemical structures. Usually, my day ends at 6pm, but as I am working on a police Lates shift this evening, I’ve worked some extra time over the week so that I can finish earlier. I close down the computer and start off on the 30-mile journey to headquarters.

Once at HQ, I go to my locker to get kitted up and then go to get my airwave and pava spray. The RPU team to which I am assigned is already out on patrol as they started at 2pm and it’s now 6pm, so I use my radio to point to point the officer I’ve been crewed with to let them know that I am ready to be collected. Whilst I wait, I go through my emails and any post.

After a short while my crew partner arrives at HQ and we set off on patrol. I notify the control room that I am now under the call sign of the RPU vehicle and give them my radio number so they can send job details directly to me. Almost immediately a call comes in about a 3-vehicle road traffic collision (RTC) on the A14 and we call up on the radio to let them know we will attend. It’s rush hour so we know that it’s going to be tough to get there on a road without a hard shoulder. After weaving through traffic, and dodging vehicles that are trying to change lane in front of us as we’re driving down the centre of the lines of cars, we make our way to the crash site. At first glance, we can see that three cars are involved and there is an ambulance already in attendance. I get out of the vehicle first with the paperwork and seek out any witnesses, as the paramedics are dealing with the drivers. My crew partner secures the lane with cones, lights and signs and starts to organise recovery of the damaged vehicles. Once we get witness details, they are allowed to leave the scene and carry on their journey, and my attention turns to each of the drivers. I ask them for first accounts to get an idea of what happened so that we can find out whom, if anyone, is at fault for the RTC. We can take more detailed statements at a more convenient time, if necessary. At this point, a fire engine turns up and the fire officers make sure the vehicles are safe and won’t start any fires. A paramedic tells us that they are taking an injured driver to the hospital and that everyone else is fine, so I temporarily stop traffic to let the ambulance out. Once the ambulance is gone, my crew partner and I wait for the recovery vehicles to arrive and clear the scene; there is too much debris for us to move the vehicles ourselves. After the vehicles have been removed, we sweep the road, clear the cones, lights and signs and let the traffic run freely. All of this has taken about two hours.

After leaving the scene, I contact the control room and let them know that the vehicles have been recovered and that we are resuming our patrol.

As we drive back on the A14, we spot a vehicle on the other carriageway with its hazard lights on. It’s at the end of the slip road, where there’s no hard shoulder and is potentially dangerous for other road users, especially now it’s getting dark. We come off at the next slip road and get onto the other carriageway to see what’s going on. My crew partner stops the police car a good distance away from the stationary vehicle and puts the rear red lights on to warn other motorists. I get out, put my high visibility jacket on and hat to make me more noticeable, and go to speak to the occupants of the vehicle. It transpires that they had run out of petrol but thought they had enough time to get to a petrol station before it would run dry. As we couldn’t leave them in such a precarious position and after some consultation with my crew partner, we tell the driver that we will drive them to the nearest petrol station where they can get some fuel and then bring them back. This is quicker than waiting on their friend to come and meet them who was driving from some distance away. We do this, make sure their car is now mobile and drive behind them as they drive off the slip road.

It’s now about 9:30pm and we are getting hungry. We go to a local police station and sit down for something to eat and a quick drink. A couple of other RPU officers come and join us and we chat about the jobs we’ve been on that day. As we’re eating, a call comes in that there’s a domestic violence incident down the road from the police station. We hear a local unit call up to say that they’ll take it on, so we continue eating our dinner. A few minutes later, the local unit calls up for assistance as the suspect is actively resisting arrest and has become verbally and physically aggressive towards them. We quickly pack away the remains of our food, run to the car and drive to the help the local officers. As we approach the house, we notice the door is open so we go in to see what has been going on. Between the four of us we manage to use our communication skills to calm him down enough that he compliantly walks to the waiting police van. He was arrested to prevent breach of the peace.

By now, it’s 10:30pm so my crew partner and I decide to float around the city to see what’s happening and see if there are any noticeable traffic offences. We end up parking in a known speeding concern area and use the laser device to see if anyone is exceeding the posted speed limit. After we’ve stopped a couple of drivers each, it’s time to get back to HQ to write up our paperwork and hand our vehicle over to the night shift.

After handing in all of the paperwork, I put my kit back in my locker, put my coat on and head to my car. It’s now just after midnight and although working a 16-hour workday is tiring, working alongside the RPU team and attending incidents gives me an indescribable ‘buzz’ and feeling like I’m part of a team that I wouldn’t change for anything.

I get back home just before 1am. I’m booked on to do the Lates shift the next day, a Saturday, which starts at 2pm, so I get my uniform ready for that and go to bed.

 

Talking Specials

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Inspector Paul Rogerson

Special Inspector Robert Thilthorpe and I met with Bill Hensley from Huntingdon Community Radio (HCR) to discuss being a Special constable and volunteering. Bill gave us an opportunity to talk through some of the frequently asked questions about being a Special constable such as.

–              The differences and similarities in role between Special and full time officers?

–              What is volunteering and what is a Special constable?

–              The powers and responsibilities of being a Special constable?

–              The work of Specials on the front line?

–              How to get involved in volunteering

–              How to become a Special.

To coincide with National Specials Weekend 2016, here is an open and honest interview which would be useful for anyone thinking about being a Special or volunteer.

INTERVIEW AUDIO