Plan to recuit 900 special oficers was 'unsustainable' commsioner reveals after 350 resign in one year

Report reveals HALF of all volunteer police officers handed in their badge in Northamptonshire last year despite a major recruitment driver under the previous commissioner.

Thursday, 6th April 2017, 4:08 pm
Updated Saturday, 8th April 2017, 10:24 pm
Crime commissioner Stephen Mold says Adam Simmonds' plans for 900 new recruits was simply 'unsustainable'.

The initiative proposed by previous police and crime commissioner Adam Simmonds fell well behind its target, today's police and crime panel meeting at County Hall heard.

Since May 2016 there has been a decrease in the number of specials - effectively volunteer uniformed officers - from 722 to 377. PCSO numbers have also fallen, with figures showing the force underspent on its support officer budget by £193,000.

A report to the meeting found there have been no new specials recruits taken on between June 2016 and February 2017 to replenish those leaving the force, while a "review of the programme" was conducted.

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Adam Simmonds announced the fact specials numbers had reached 500 in 2015.

But current commissioner Stephen Mold told the Chron the force has not had the resources to cope with training such a large cohort of recruits.

"I am quite happy with where we are as a force at moment," he said. "I have always preferred quality over quantity.

"I didn't want an arbitrary target for the sake of having an arbitrary target."

Mr Mold, who scrapped Mr Simmonds target of 900 on entering office last year, said the force's focus now is now on committing the specials to a target of 200 hours work a year and offering different incentives to join the force as a volunteer, rather than simply increasing the number of volunteers.

Adam Simmonds announced the fact specials numbers had reached 500 in 2015.

One suggestion is that specials could soon be attached to cyber and rural crime units. A recent scheme has seen student volunteer officers take part in "warrant Wednesdays" where they execute outstanding warrants alongside senior officers.

Part of the reason the numbers have dropped, Mr Mold said, is because too many of the newest recruits simply "didn't meet the standard".

Out of the previous 744 cohorts, only 150 of them had the training to go on "independent patrol", meaning a vast majority have had to go on patrol with a paid officer.

"We almost had too many," he added. "Those numbers just aren't sustainable in the long term. In five years' time maybe, but I want the specials to be experienced. I want 75 to 80 per cent of our specials to have been with us for four or five years."

"We need to give them a better offer and the key part of that is around independent patrol - that is when offices can go out on the street s on their own.

"That is much more fulfilling for them, but it takes two years to get to that point."

Despite the spate of resignations, Northamptonshire still has double the amount of special constables as Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.

However he still feels Mr Simmonds strategy of recruiting 900 was the right thing to do at the time, even though he scrapped it on keep.