Hard to beat a special’s role

TO mark over 30 years in the service, a special constable has been rewarded for his outstanding work in the community. Paul Thapar, 51, lives in St Ippolyts and has been on the beat in Hitchin since 1973, when he enrolled as a member of the Special Consta

TO mark over 30 years in the service, a special constable has been rewarded for his outstanding work in the community.

Paul Thapar, 51, lives in St Ippolyts and has been on the beat in Hitchin since 1973, when he enrolled as a member of the Special Constabulary.

Since then, Paul has volunteered some of his time to policing the community and supporting the regular police force.

And he was awarded the Certificate of Good Work by Superintendent Adrian Walter for his services at a ceremony on Tuesday at Hitchin Police Station.

The notion of a voluntary special constabulary was formally introduced in 1914, when more than 100,000 volunteers were recruited as a reserve force to support the regular forces during World War I.

Their assistance was continually called upon throughout the next two decades, as the General Strike and World War II led to a further 140,000 volunteers signing up to lend their support.

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Finally in 1964, the Police Act established the special constabulary as the force to which Paul, and almost 13,000 others, belong today.

Paul has successfully combined his special constabulary work with his day job as a chartered surveyor and is married with four children.

He said: "Originally I wanted to go into the regular police, but circumstances didn't allow it, mainly because in those days the police salary was lower than what I could have made as a surveyor and I had a new family."

An alternative was to join as a special constable. They are required to volunteer a minimum of 16 hours a month, which includes time spent training or attending meetings.

Paul said: "I opt to do more than the minimum hours but that's up to the individual.

"There's the chance to spread your hours out, or do them flexibly.

"For example I usually work from 10pm until about 3am", which, when done once a week, adds up to about 20 hours a month.

"Obviously there comes a time when something special's happening at home and I have to go, but my wife's very supportive."

Paul says he has found the work positive and worthwhile.

He said: "Being a special constable is a very interesting and challenging role and we perform various duties such as community patrolling, public order and special events.

"We're able to do many things our colleagues in the regular force do and the training is ongoing so we're always kept up to date with new developments in policing.

"There aren't many negatives that I can think of, for me it's all been quite positive.

"I've never come across any lows but there is a general stigma associated with being a police officer from some members of the public.

"It can be momentarily stressful such as when you are involved with an arrest or a scuffle but I think it's generally OK.

"I'm Asian and when I first started as a special constable back in 1973 I was the only Asian.

"I used to find there was some racial tension from members of the public but once they got to know me it was OK.

"Now, though, it no longer exists, well I've not come across it. I always urge others to join up and I especially want to see more people from ethnic minorities enrolling."

Paul added: "The regular police are very supportive, especially at Hitchin Police Station, where there is assistance from the constables right up to the chief inspector.

"I work alongside about 10 other special constables in Hitchin and there's a very nice atmosphere, we're a good group.

"It is hard work but it's so rewarding and I actually enjoy it more now than I did when I was younger.

"We get to drive police vehicles, operate laser equipment for speeding cars, fingerprinting and much more.

"We also attend special operations such as the London bombings last July and the Buncefield fires."

With a view to the future, Paul is still full of enthusiasm for the Special Constabulary and said: "As long as I stay fit I'll continue to be a special constable.

"At the moment I'm pretty fit but you never know what's around the corner.

"I just feel I am making a positive contribution to the community and it's a way of paying something back."

Community insector Phil Wright said: "Paul's 32 years of voluntary service in what can at times be a very demanding role is hugely commendable.

"The Special Constabulary is an incredibly valuable part of our local police service and extremely important to the current development of neighbourhood policing teams."

Anyone wishing to join the Special Constabulary should contact Phil Wright on 01462 425067.

Investigative roles are likely to be available to Special Constables in addition to the traditional uniformed role.

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