A high-profile target to recruit 900 special constables in Northamptonshire has been abandoned by the county’s new police crime commissioner.
The scheme to create an army of specials was the brainchild of former PCC Adam Simmonds, who believed that recruitment of volunteer cops could improve community policing.
But it was a divisive plan - with many people believing it was policing on the cheap.
Now new PCC Stephen Mold has decided to stop the aggressive recruitment and to stick with a figure of around half of the regular force - a move described as ‘sensible’ by his deputy chief constable.
As there are currently 1267 full time officers, that would mean there would be about 600 specials working alongside them. There are currently thought to be around 718 specials in the force.
Specials have the same powers as regular police officers but are volunteers and many have other professions.
Despite the huge publicity to try to attract specials to the force during the past two years, and thousands spent on campaigns and paying recruitment specialists to help bolster numbers, the news of the campaign’s demise was buried at the bottom of a press release put out by the force on Thursday.
It comes just a day after it was announced that Mr Mold had shelved the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives, another of his predecessor’s unique schemes.
A statement from Mr Mold, made after he had spent a weekend out on patrol with his specials, said: “Northamptonshire Police has done an incredible job in recruiting more than 700 members of the community to the special constabulary and as a result Northamptonshire is viewed as the leading force when it comes to recruiting volunteers in policing.
“Special constables contributed nearly 140,000 hours to helping keep the people of Northamptonshire safe in 2015, and their help is vital to our efforts of making communities safer places for us to live and work. As a result, the effective use of the special constabulary will be one of the key priorities of my office.
“Having reviewed the recruitment and use of special constables and spoken with Chief Constable Simon Edens and his team, I believe the time is right to focus on maintaining a ratio of full-time officers to special constables of approximately two to one, and to focus on ensuring that Special constables are fully integrated with the full-time force so that their time, skills and training continues to make Northamptonshire safer.”
Deputy Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police, Andy Frost, added: “I think the commissioner’s review of the special constabulary is sensible and I agree that we should focus our efforts on looking at how best to use this large resource available to us.”