Police look to student recruits

January 9, 2004

Merseyside Police has helped increase its volunteer ranks by 25 per cent in the past six years by using students as special constables.

The Merseyside force has recruited 14 students as special constables over the past two years, bringing its total to 503. Nationally, there has been a 45 per cent drop since 1998 in the number of special constables.

Paul Robinson, chief officer of the special constables, has served as a volunteer for more than 30 years.

He told the Liverpool Daily Post : "Students can work in university neighbourhoods, where other students can identify with them and speak to them even when they are not in uniform.

"Our recruitment drive has been very successful in breaking down the barriers and making people, such as students, feel they can become specials."

Mr Robinson said special constables in Merseyside were not paid but the issue would be reviewed this year.

Specials train for five weekends before taking their oath in front of senior officers, a justice of the peace and their family. A further two weekends of training follow during the next 26 weeks.

Stephanie Bland, 19, a special constable from Stockton Heath, Warrington, is a part-time criminology student and has been a qualified special with the Merseyside force for two months.

"There are no down sides to being a volunteer," she said.

"You do occasionally get a bit of verbal abuse, but nothing physical, and you just learn to let it wash over you."

Ms Bland said that the first arrest she made was for drug possession.

"We have the same training as regular officers and carry the same equipment, including CS spray and a baton, although I haven't had to use them yet. Eventually, I do want to go into the regular police force," she said.

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