FROM late-night patrols through busy town centres to standing guard at the scene of serious assaults, Surrey’s Special Constables work hard to protect and serve the public.
But many Surrey residents will know little about what it takes to step up and volunteer for the police.
The county’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Ellie Vesey-Thompson, has joined three Specials for shifts in the past few months. She spoke of their courage and determination following national Volunteers’ Week, which takes place every year from June 1-7.
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Ellie Vesey-Thompson, right, with Special Sergeant Sophie Yeates
During the first shift, Ellie teamed up with Special Sergeant Jonathan Bancroft to patrol Guildford. They were quickly called to reports of a repeat shoplifter who had allegedly behaved abusively to staff. Jonathan took statements and reassured the victims before launching a search for the suspect.
Ellie then joined airline pilot Ally Black, who serves as a sergeant with the Roads Policing Unit based at Burpham. During the evening, Sgt Black seized an untaxed car and helped a stranded motorist who had broken down in a live lane just beyond the Hindhead Tunnel.
In late May, Ellie travelled to Epsom to meet Special Sgt Sophie Yeates, who works full-time as a teaching assistant at a Guildford school. Among other incidents, Sgt Yeates was called to two reports involving a concern for welfare during the evening.
Special Constables volunteer within one of the Force’s frontline teams, wearing a uniform and carrying the same powers and responsibilities as regular officers. They complete 14 weeks of training – one evening per week and alternate weekends – to ensure they have the knowledge and skills they need for the role.
In total, Specials are asked to volunteer at least 16 hours per month, although many choose to do more. Sgt Yeates works around 40 hours a month, while Sgt Bancroft volunteers 100 hours.
Ellie said: “The title ‘Special Constable’ is very fitting – it really does take someone special to do this job.
“These men and women give some of their free time to making sure Surrey remains one of the safest counties in the country.
‘It takes someone special’
“I’ve think the role that Specials play is often misunderstood by the public. These volunteers are unpaid, but they wear the same uniform and have the same powers to do everything a police officer does, including making arrests. They are also often among the first to respond to emergencies.
“Joining volunteers on patrol recently has been a really eye-opening experience. It’s been wonderful to hear how much they value their time working with the Force, and the difference it makes to their lives. I’ve also hand the chance to see first-hand their courage and determination to serve the Surrey public.
“So many of the skills learned through volunteering are useful in everyday working life, including conflict resolution, keeping calm under pressure and approaching any situation with confidence.
“We have a brilliant team of Specials across Surrey, as well as many other volunteers, and I want to thank each and every one of them for the work they do to keep our county safe.”
For more information, visit surrey.police.uk/specials
Ellie also joined Special Sgt Jonathan Bancroft, who gives up to 100 hours of his time to Surrey Police every month