More people wanted to join special force

JUST how SPECIAL are you? This was a question an East Markham man had to ask himself when he applied to join the volunteer wing of the county's police force.

JUST how SPECIAL are you?

This was a question an East Markham man had to ask himself when he applied to join the volunteer wing of the county's police force.

Andy Stuart is just like most other men in his village. He enjoys life, has a good job, a wife and a lovely home, but he is different in one big respect.

In his spare time he plays a crucial role in maintaining law and order in the Retford and Worksop areas as a special constable an arm of the police force that is becoming ever more necessary.

Andy joined the force five years ago because he wanted to put something back into the community.

A former Navy man, he was well used to team working and the rules and regulations of a uniformed job. Since leaving the service, he has built up a successful business but he still felt there was something missing.

"Being a special is very rewarding. Whenever I put on my uniform and go on duty, I never know what I am going to be faced with," he said.

"It could be just a routine patrol in Retford on a Friday evening or backing up the regular force on a drugs raid. Life as a special is never boring."

Special constables have to undergo 40 hours of training and then commit themselves to a minimum of four hours availability a week.

They are on probation for their first year and during that time are usually accompanied by a regular officer when they go out on patrol.

"Once we are out there we have the same powers of arrest as a full-time police officer. We wear the same uniform and we carry the same equipment," said Andy.

"We are usually in demand for high profile events such as New Year's Eve, Charter Day or the Clumber concerts, and we are usually needed on Friday nights at the town's trouble spots."

Although the job has its good points, at times it can also be tough, and potential recruits sometimes have to be ready to take abuse and lack of co-operation in their stride.

"You have to be quite hardy," said Andy.

"It can be quite intimidating at times, particularly if you are in a tight situation and have requested back-up and it's a long time coming. But you just have to take the rough with the smooth. Overall, the good points far outweigh the bad," he added.

As well as pounding the beat, Andy likes a game of squash and walking with his two Dalmation dogs. Keeping in good shape is important to him.

The specials have their own rank structure and Andy is a section leader, responsible for up to 10 other officers in his team. Specials have to be British or Commonwealth citizens, aged between 18 and 55, physically fit, in good health, with good eyesight and of good character.

At the present time there is a great need in the county for more to join up as numbers have declined in the past few years.

"We had 630 in the county in 1996, but it now stands at 260 due to the retirement of long-standing officers and specials joining the regular force," said Andy.

As part of the drive to encourage more people to join the specials, Retford police station hosted a recruitment evening this week.

Anyone who missed the event and would like more information on the force and how to join is asked to phone Sam Hughes on 0115 967 2429, or e-mail specials@nottinghamshire.pnn.police.uk