Can You Help Make London Safer? Being a Special Is a Rewarding Way to Spend Your Free Time, Say the Londoners Helping the Metropolitan Police. as Special Constables, Volunteers Gain Skills That Can Benefit Them in Life and at Work

Article excerpt

Byline: Niki Chesworth

THE thousands of men and women from all kinds of backgrounds getting a taste of frontline policing by volunteering as special constables have all kinds of reasons for giving up their time to be there for London. However, they all share the same rewarding feeling of helping make the city a safer place for everyone.

Being a special constable involves giving 16 hours each month to help with various aspects of policing. Specials have the same powers of arrest and uniform as regular officers, so as far as the general public is concerned, there is no discernible difference.

In reality, the only distinction between the two is that regular officers get paid a salary and Specials are motivated by charitable considerations, although the role offers plenty of opportunities to grow personally and professionally.

Oliver Breen, 21, a supermarket department manager, says he would not swap being a Special for any other job in the charity sector and sums up exactly why volunteering to help London in this way is so rewarding.

"Knowing that I have helped to find a missing person, given reassurance to a victim of crime or returned someone's stolen property is a huge source of satisfaction," he explains. "It makes me feel really happy that I have done my job. I love every minute of it."

This is a view shared by Benjamin Braun who says: "When you are working in an office environment dayin, day-out, it is easy to lose touch with the real world. There can be a tendency -- a danger even -- of getting caught up in the world of work and losing sight of what else is important in life and what it has to offer.

"I think this was the main initial motivation for me to become a Special. I wanted to do something completely different that was stimulating and challenging. Becoming a Special ticked all the boxes."

Like Oliver and Benjamin, many people find they can put experience from their day job to good use in the role -- but this works both ways. Following intensive training, the vast majority of people find that being a Special enables them to pick up all kinds of useful skills that they can then transfer to their regular jobs.

"Every incident I attend is a learning experience," says Benjamin. "I tend to take quite an analytical approach. I assess the situation, decide what action is appropriate and then follow it through to a successful conclusion.

"It is not just the feeling of helping those in society who need it most that is rewarding, either. There is a genuine sense of team spirit and I have formed a close bond with the other people I studied with at Hendon. I met all kinds of interesting people -- a doctor, a long-haul stewardess, students. …