The very special role that volunteers play in local policing
In her latest blog article, PCC Alison Hernandez pays tribute to local policing volunteers, and highlights the invaluable contribution from the force’s Specials.
I was delighted to spend time with one of the police’s award winning volunteers, Specials' Chief Superintendent Andy Turner. The specials seem to be really focussing on the issues that matter to the public - road safety and supporting the most isolated in our rural areas.
His rural engagement team has done innovative work with large, isolated, and often hard to reach, rural communities. He recruits and draws on special constables who live in rural areas because they know who’s who, including local farmers, business and land owners, parish councils, the National Farmers Union and community groups.
They have also now developed partnerships with Dartmoor National Park Rangers, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue and Customs and Excise, to name a few.
The small teams receive additional training to the standard arrangements including how to tackle wildlife crime and firearms awareness (as there are over 20,000 licensed firearms in our community), and suicide awareness to try and assist in reducing rates of suicide.
By being proactive and getting out into these rural and often isolated communities the rural engagement team often signpost people into services prior to them coming through to police in the traditional manner and reduces demand on our services and improves public satisfaction. I was at Truro livestock market and the farmers, NFU, chaplaincy and animal welfare team spoke very highly of them.
The rural engagement team also act as champions of Farm Watch, Horse Watch and Boat Watch ensuring rural communities sign up to these community watch schemes and seeing the value they provide. This helps better connect policing with communities, and connectivity is a key priority I have set for the force.
Now on to road safety. There are seven roads policing specials who are fully trained to support regular roads policing officers in their work on main roads and the motorway.
Local people are impressed by their efforts and one of the biggest campaigns was in Plymouth where the specials efforts went viral on-line. The #noexcuses specials campaign team promoted the fatal five (excess speed, distraction, no seatbelt, careless/inconsiderate driving, impairment through drink or drugs). They borrowed a double decker bus from Citybus and used it as a vantage point catching drivers using mobile phones and other distraction driving.
There have also been great efforts to tackle speeding on the moors with Operation Granite. The operation took place last month and has become an annual event across Dartmoor National Park which involved several other agencies and support from regular police colleagues and staff from the camera safety partnership.
It’s aimed at educating members of the public to cut the number of fatal and serious injury crashes, to combat the fatal five offences.
More than 200 drivers were stopped and over 30 caught speeding on Dartmoor, including one travelling at almost 60mph in a 40mph zone. Dorset Police was also involved in Operation Granite, with support from Dartmoor National Park, Trading Standards, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue, and HMRC road fuels team. Much of the specials efforts are co-ordinating partner agencies to play their part and it’s another great way policing is better connecting with our communities.
There are a number of incidents within Dartmoor National Park each year where vehicles collide with livestock and many of these could be avoided, so it is important to educate drivers and encourage safe and slower driving throughout the National Park that attracts so many visitors throughout the year.
As a further resource the Princetown visitor centre was also used to host stands from a number of partners including ‘The Honest Truth’ road safety campaign, plus a driving simulator demonstrating the dangers of excess speed.
I am convinced that Operation Granite certainly proved itself to be a very effective tool for improving road safety. This is what fills my mailbag regularly so they are really focussing on what matters to communities.
It was easy to see why Andy won the 2017 Chief Constable’s Award earlier this month at the Community Volunteer Awards Ceremony. He is a dedicated member of the Special Constabulary and has been for many years. If you would like to know more about joining the specials, police cadets or any other volunteering opportunities with the force please look at this website and register your interest.