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The volunteers that make a huge difference

In her latest blog, Alison praises the work of volunteers and highlights how Special Constable recruitment is currently open.

OPCC volunteers at their annual celebration event held at St Mellion on Tuesday, December 3

Anyone wanting to feel a bit better about the world should meet a volunteer. The fact that people are prepared to give up their spare time to do some often very unglamorous jobs for no money and not a lot of glory always inspires me.

Last Tuesday (Dec 3), at our annual high tea thank-you event, I was fortunate enough to come into contact with groups of people who carry out an incredible range of volunteering roles for my office and some of the services we commission.

Among attendees was a police chaplain who drives all over the Westcountry to offer reassurance and advice to victims of crime, councillor advocates who are helping the police and my office create local networks to deliver safer communities, and independent custody volunteers, who help the police maintain high standards of welfare for detainees.

These impressive but modest individuals bring with them a significant amount of experience and talent. They include in their ranks former police officers and firefighters, businesspeople, NHS professionals and academics.

The contribution they make is immeasurable, and my team and I really enjoyed getting them together for a couple of hours to say thanks.

Of course, volunteering has been a part of policing for many years, and Special Constables, volunteer officers with full police powers, are an important part of the frontline. In Devon and Cornwall they do everything from bolstering city centre police teams during busy periods to helping with major investigations and conducting operations into problems like rural crime.

On Saturday the latest cohort of Special Constables were sworn in by a Magistrate and will be able to start making a tangible contribution. I know from speaking to regular officers that when a Special turns up to offer help they are welcomed with open arms.

For some this volunteering role is a perfect way to see if a role as a full time officer is for them. With Devon and Cornwall Police looking to recruit hundreds of officers over the next few years the Citizens In Policing team responsible for Specials is an increasingly important avenue.

Others are Special Constables purely because they want to help their communities and have a strong urge to ‘give something back’.

It’s really important that both Special Constables, as well as regular officers, come in all shapes and sizes and have a breadth of experience. There is no upper age limit and as long as student officers are fit for the job then they have every chance of making it through selection.

For anyone thinking about volunteering in this unique way now is the right time. Registration for the next cohort of Special Officers opened a couple of weeks ago and the window remains open until January 6. Visit the Special Constable section on devon-cornwall.police.uk for more information or email specialsrecruitment@devonandcornwall.pnn.police.uk.

If that’s not for you then there are still plenty of ways in which volunteers can help the police, my office and our partners. The Victim Care Unit provides invaluable support and advice to victims of crime in the force area, both directly and via a network of third-sector organisations with a wide range of specialisms. Their volunteers give time to the types of crimes – like online fraud - that can have a terrible effect on someone’s confidence or ability to feel safe in their own home.

We are also looking to recruit independent custody visitors (ICVs) to join a small but dedicated team. They are an important part of ensuring that custody is up to scratch. In Devon and Cornwall they have conducted an incredible 193 visits since January, speaking to a 450 men, women and children who had been detained by the force.

ICVs check things like use-by dates on equipment and food and the physical condition of detention facilities. It’s as unglamorous as volunteering gets, but helps to ensure people detained by the force are being done so properly, giving confidence to the officers who work in this potentially difficult area of policing.

So if you have been inspired by the selfless behaviour of our wonderful volunteers then please get in touch with my office and ask about opportunities available. Together we can ensure that Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly remain some of the safest and most pleasant places to live in the country.

Alison Hernandez