Special constable numbers plummet
SUFFOLK's army of special constables has declined by nearly a third in just six years.Numbers have fallen from 379 in 1997 to just 275 in March this year and bosses admit they are struggling to attract new volunteers, despite a series of recruitment drives.
SUFFOLK's army of special constables has declined by nearly a third in just six years.
Numbers have fallen from 379 in 1997 to just 275 in March this year and bosses admit they are struggling to attract new volunteers, despite a series of recruitment drives.
Special constables are unpaid, voluntary police officers who assist the regular force in frontline duties.
The newly-published figures were highlighted by David Ruffley, the MP for Bury St Edmunds, who blamed falling morale across the police service for the recruitment crisis.
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He said: "No wonder that seeing the police on the beat is such a rarity.
"Special constables play a vital role in neighbourhood policing.
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"But specials, like full-time officers, are being overwhelmed by bureaucracy and paperwork.
"Morale across the police has plummeted. Disenchantment and frustration have led to a huge retention and recruitment crisis, as these figures show.
But a spokeswoman for Suffolk police denied low morale was to blame – and said many specials had been recruited into the regular police force.
She said: "The decline in numbers has, to some extent, coincided with the introduction of Suffolk First – Suffolk's campaign to become the safest county in England and Wales by 2006.
"As part of this campaign Suffolk embarked on a programme to recruit nearly 200 additional regular police officers.
"This, combined with a recent trend for employers to demand more time and commitment from their staff has impacted on the number of special officers.
"The skills and attributes of special officers make them prime candidates for recruitment into the regular service – and so many of Suffolk's specials have been selected to become regular police officers both in Suffolk and in other counties."
She said employers are being encouraged to support their staff in joining the special constabulary.
The decline in numbers has been mirrored by a drop around the country.
And in other counties in our region the situation is even worse. In Norfolk, the number fell by 41 per cent and in Cambridgeshire by 38pc. Nationally the figure has dropped by 44pc.
Suffolk Constabulary has an ongoing campaign to recruit special constables, who must be aged between 18-and-a-half and 50, be of good character and have a reasonable level of fitness.
Anyone interested can contact the Suffolk police recruitment hotline number on 01473 613640.