A guest writer, a Special Constable from the massed ranks of MSC:
When I became interested in joining the police, being an obsessive I hoovered up any and all the information about the job, the organisation, the people and the ties that I could lay my eyes on. Many of my sources were obvious, some less so. I quickly dismissed The Bill as rather glammed up. I mean seriously, how many coppers are there as good looking and wholesome as June Ackland? I devoured sites like PC Copperfield's. I read his book. And then I thought to myself "surely not!?". At my day job things get sometimes get pretty bizarre, but could the police service really be shooting itself in the foot like that?
I have been a part-timer for a couple of years now. Not long, you'll agree. I have been assigned to four different teams in that time. No sooner have I got settled into the routine and personalities of one team is it disbanded and re-created under a new brand. One PC I worked with right at the start seems to have gone full circle the other way and we are now on the same team again - miles away from where either of us was all that very short time ago. I recently had to make a "business case" for keeping my locker in the station where I
A few pointless re-brandings and re-shuffles I can handle. After all, I have - according to the recruitment process at least - sufficient Resilience to carry out my role efficiently and professionally. But it's the other ridiculous barriers that hurt. We are now no longer supposed to work with any other team than our own. If my team is not working on a day when I can, then there is apparently no policing that I can assist with. I cannot simply turn up, present myself to the duty skipper and ask if there's anything he or she needs my boots for.
Never mind that the duty skipper is invariably overjoyed to have an extra pair of boots for a few hours. Never mind that working with different teams is good for the soul and the Personal Development Plan. It is verboten and I will be shouted at.
When I started I busted a gut to experience as much of the world of policing as I could. I did not want to be that special who didn't know what to do in a particular situation. I did not want to be the one who shied away from getting involved in something for fear of embarrassing himself. I wanted to be the special who was trusted not to wander off or make a difficult situation worse by saying the wrong thing. In my first year I was one of the hardest working - in terms of hours - specials in my division. I had the spreadsheet to prove it. But then it started to get harder. Having got used to supervising less-experienced specials I was suddenly not allowed to go out on my own. Having got used to working most weekends I found myself restricted in the shifts I could work. I spend more time being annoyed about the pointless hoops than I do actually out on the street. My hours have collapsed and the enthusiasm gets harder to muster.
Who benefits from all this? I don't know. There must be someone making something out of it or otherwise things would be left alone. Is the police service really shooting itself in the foot? If the frequency of my handing-in-my-warrant-card fantasies is anything to go by then oh boy.