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About Specials, and the Special Constabulary

The Special Constabulary is the United Kingdom's part-time police force. It is made up of members of the public who volunteer to spend some of their time helping to police their local community. Each of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, as well the 8 Scottish forces and British Transport Police, has their own Special Constabulary.

The concept of the public helping to police has been in existence for literally hundreds of years - for a potted history of the specials, follow the link in the sidebar.

Every "Special" is sworn in at court or in the presence of a magistrate in the same manner as a full-time ("regular") police officer. Specials work alongside their regular colleagues, they are based at the same police stations, and have the same powers in law, including the power of arrest.

The duties carried out by a Special Constable are essentially the same as those carried out by any regular police officer. Generally speaking Specials will support regular officers by patrolling on foot or in a car, alone, with another special, or with a regular.

Specials are likely to get involved in all aspects of modern policing, particularly neighbourhood policing, tacking anti-social behaviour, crime prevention, raids and warrants, special events, football matches, missing person enquiries, road traffic accidents (the list goes on!) as well as dealing with crime such as burglaries, fights and criminal damage. As a rule, Specials carry out 'mainstream' policing, and tend not to be involved in the 'specialist' policing areas such as traffic policing, CID (criminal investigation department), firearms, search teams, as these require higher levels of training and commitment than most Specials are able to offer.

Take a look at a typical day for a police special.

Specials will sometimes be required to attend court (Magistrates court, or Crown court which includes a jury). They may be required to give evidence about arrests they have made or incidents they were involved in where a person is being tried for an offence.

Special Constabulary Grades / Ranks

Epaulette Insignia Grade Title(s)

• Special Constable

• Section Officer
• Specials Sergeant

• Divisional Officer
• Sub Divisional Officer

• Divisional Officer
• Assistant Chief Officer
• Specials Chief Inspector

• Chief Officer
• Commandant

Scottish forces do not have ranks or grades in their Special Constabularies. In England and Wales, the Special Constabulary has grades similar to the ranks of regular police officers. These grades used to be the same nationwide, but were changed some years ago. Now it's starting to change back again and as a result different forces use slightly different names for the same grades.

The modern structure is pretty much the same in every force - although the grade names and insignia may vary, the responsibilities are broadly the same. Note that some forces do without some of the intermediate grades, just to add to the confusion!

Uniform

The uniform of the Special Constable is nearly identical to that of a regular police officer, indeed if you have seen or spoken to (or maybe even been arrested by!) a police officer recently they may well have been a Special without you realising it.

Minor uniform differences vary from force to force but include differentiated collar numbers and possibly a Special Constabulary jacket badge, or the letters "SC", sometimes with a crown above it, on the epaulettes.

Many forces also provide footwear, a few still pay an annual "boot allowance" to allow Specials to purchase their own.

Equipment

Specials are issued with identical kit (baton, handcuffs, CS spray, etc.) to their regular colleagues and are provided with access to safety equipment including stab vests. Different forces carry varying equipment - for example, some use a side-handled baton while others use the extending "ASP" baton. You can find out more information on our police equipment page.

You can also purchase kit & equipment for specials from the PoliceSpecials shop

Pay and Benefits

In most cases, Specials are unpaid volunteers. Some forces do pay an annual bounty of around £1,000, or offer a discount on your community charge, dependent on the Special performing a certain number of duty hours. If you apply to become a Special, your chosen force will advise you on any reward scheme.

Whether paid or not, Specials can claim travelling and out of pocket expenses, and all uniform and equipment is provided free of charge.

Eligibility

Specials come from all walks of life and usually no formal qualifications are required. You need to be a European Economic Area citizen (or have unrestricted right to remain in the country), and you must be at least 18 years old. There is no upper age limit, although due to the nature of the role, applicants must be reasonably fit and in good health. Both health and fitness are assessed during the recruitment process.

Potential specials need to have reasonable reading and writing skills, and of course must be law abiding, respectful of others and community focused. A healthy dose of common sense is very much called for too!

Finally you need to be able to offer commitment - specials are required to work at least 16 hours per month, but have a fairly free choice about when to put in these hours. Training is given to allow specials to carry out their duties and use their powers with confidence.

See our recruitment information page for more details.


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