The leader of the Northampton Labour Group has welcomed the increase in the number of Special Constables in the county but said they should not be used to replace police officers.
Latest figures released by Northamptonshire Police show almost a third of the police officers working for Northamptonshire Police are now volunteers due to a 40 per cent increase in the number of Special Constables.
The county force has increased the number of Special Constables above 500 for the first time and has the largest ratio of volunteer officers to regular officers anywhere in England and Wales.
Northampton Borough Councillor Danielle Stone, who is also a member of the Police and Crime Panel, said she welcomed the increase in Special Constables but was concerned the Special Constables could be used to replace paid police officers.
She said: “I am pleased that 500 special constables have been recruited and trained up. It is pleasing that so many people are willing to give up their own time to serve our communities.
“The recruitment drive to get more Special Constables appears to have been a success. However, my only concern is whether this is a substitute for the number of paid police officers that have been cut.
“Northamptonshire Police has seen its funding substantially reduced and that will inevitably mean less Police Officers. Special Constables should be a compliment to Police Officers and not a substitute for them.”
Northamptonshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds said the new Special Constables were “far from a subsititution” and were helping to make the county the ‘safest place in England’.
He said: “There hasn’t been a single cut to the number of front-line police officers in Northamptonshire during my time in office, and we are committed to maintaining that, and maintaining the number of full-time officers at 1,220.
“Our Special Constables are all fully warranted police officers with the same powers as full-time officers, and are far from a substitute.
“They are a valuable resource in addition to our full-time force and having 500 Special Constables on top of 1,220 full-time officers is helping keep Northamptonshire a safer place.”
“I am committed to helping Chief Constable Simon Edens and Northamptonshire Police create a workforce that can deliver to the expectations of our residents, and having over 500 Special Constables on board is helping us considerably to achieve that.”
Simon Edens, Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police, said he was planning to make the Special Constables an integrated part of how the force policed in the future.
He said: “We are here to protect communities and keep people safe and I therefore pay tribute to those Special Constables who have volunteered to protect and serve their communities in this way.”