I wanted to join the Specials in 1986 after I’d done my national service back in Italy, so I applied… but then I got a job as a Chef. I’ve worked in the hospitality trade since then and have owned and managed restaurants and cafes and I love it. But in the back of my mind, thoughts about joining the police have always been there.
About 15 years ago someone suggested I think about joining the Specials again, as a sort of ‘try before you buy’ to see if I wanted to join the regulars. So I did apply and was successful. You do need to be pretty dedicated with the training as it takes up your evenings and some weekends, but people across the force are so helpful and if someone can help you, they will.
Being a Special fulfilled the part of me that wanted to be a police officer, and I loved it so much I decided to keep volunteering rather than join up full time.
I’ve been involved in so much in those 15 years that I can’t really pick out any one thing as a highlight because I’ve enjoyed all of it. With everything I do, I’m always thinking ‘have I done enough learning? Do I know enough?’ That’s one of the reasons I keep coming back, because I want to keep learning. And because I love the buzz – I still get those butterflies when a call comes in.
I don’t want to stop being a Special as there is so much you can be involved with and every day is different.
I’ve done lots of things in my time with the force; been on warrants, helped patrol the town centre in Bedford during football matches (usually when England play Italy!), helped tackle things like antisocial behaviour and shoplifting. I’ve also been into a lot of venues with the Licensing Team to ensure the venue has the correct licensing in place. When working with them I’m also lucky enough to work with people from partner agencies and as a result I’m always learning extra skills.
I run my own business in the middle of Bedford, and I am lucky because I have a very understanding wife and family who support me with my volunteering. With the Specials I volunteer around 35 hours a month, and I’m also a Cadet Instructor. I just use my time wisely – some people play golf in their spare time, but I choose to volunteer.
Because there are so many things to get involved with as a Special, I can choose when to volunteer and fit it in around my job.
I fell into being a Cadet Instructor really. I used to mentor someone who had been a Cadet, then a Special and then a full time police officer. He was asked to help out with the Cadets and I happened to be with him one evening so I went along, and I’ve been doing it now for about four years.
With every Cadet group you can see a few people who you know will be police officers. So you take them through the Cadet programme, then they join as a Special Constable, and then they join the regulars and you end up going out on duty with them! It’s really nice to see their development and you feel like you’ve been with them on their journey.
I recently received a Lord-Lieutenant’s Certificate of Meritorious Service, and I’m so proud – I just wish my parents were still alive to see it as it would have been the cherry on the cake for them. I want people to know that you will be recognised for the good that you do in life, and I hope that I inspire others to think about volunteering in their community.
I also have to say that the support from the Special Constabulary is fantastic. We have a really good team right from our Chief Officer at the top through to other colleagues on the same level.
Sometimes we hear people saying things like ‘what they should do is this… why aren’t they doing that?’ Well I’m someone who’s done it! I’m just a member of the public who has had a chance to make a difference, and my message to those people would be to come and join us and see what we do.
Special Sergeant Libby Lionetti has been volunteering with Bedfordshire Police’s Special Constabulary for the past 15 years, and as a Cadet Instructor for the past four years. He recently received a Lord-Lieutenant’s Certificate of Meritorious Service for his work as a Special, Cadet Instructor and also for his work within Bedford’s Italian community.
The next Special Constabulary Information Evening is at Police Heqadquarters in Kempston on Monday 8 May. To register, click here.