When in my teens, I had considered joining the police. It sounded action packed and a challenge; a chance to develop myself on both a personal and professional level, to protect people, fight crime and keep the community safe. The timing just wasn’t right.
Life moved on and I started a family. Still, the small voice within that wanted to do more and make a difference didn’t subside.
In 2012 I was working part time at a National Trust visitor centre in one of Bedfordshire’s natural beauty spots, bursting with life and vibrancy – a safe place. The Downs was a haven for families, young and old to sit and enjoy the untainted joys of nature and to explore. Life was great. Yet I still felt there was more in store for me. I was destined for something else. Something that would not only conserve the surroundings but also its people. That is why I looked into helping the community.
My younger self pushed me in the direction of Bedfordshire Police’s job vacancy pages where I realised reluctantly I wouldn’t be able to manage the shift work that comes with being a full time police officer around my son. There was however a volunteering opportunity available: a Volunteer Police Officer. The role profile described the responsibilities of a Special Constable and I was hooked from that moment. I could use my years of customer service skills and finally make a difference.
I applied and in November 2013 I had my uniform and had started my training course. Without fail I would turn up at Headquarters and learn about the law, the powers and privileges carrying a warrant card would bestow upon me and the ways in which I could use my knowledge to make a difference in my community and help keep my county and my family safe.
April 2014 was a proud month for me. I attested as a Special Constable and my view of the world around me changed. Rather than sitting at home watching the news and wondering what the emergency services were doing to right any wrongs, I was now an active part in the actions taken. I was out on patrol responding to 999 calls as well as walking the beat and talking to members of the public, listening to their concerns.
The months rolled by and the hours I spent volunteering increased. I couldn’t get enough. The flexibility around when I could go on duty worked perfectly around my job and my family.
Within a year I had achieved my independent patrol status and had been promoted to Special Sergeant in Leighton Buzzard. We supported community events, my favourite being the Lindslade Canal Festival, as well as going on foot patrol to show a presence in the town and listening to the local residents, feeding back any intelligence that could aid investigations. My Inspector was a great support and continued to help develop my skills further, resulting in me being placed in a Special Inspector’s post.
Most people don’t realise that as a Special Constable you will do all but a few of the tasks that a regular officer would do. We attend road traffic collisions, respond to domestic violence complaints, search for missing people and stop vehicles deemed to be unsafe or uninsured. We are trained in conflict management, communication skills and emergency first aid.
Being a Special Constable has made me a better person. I have learnt so much and will endeavour to continue learning to make me the best I can be in regarding to protecting the people I share Bedfordshire with. As a result of my role in the Special Constabulary, and my passion for volunteering I now work full time within the force’s Volunteering Unit, sharing the opportunity to volunteer with others across the county. When people ask why I do it, I can’t help but smile and simply say “I love it”.
Special Inspector Juliet Donel joined the Specials in 2014. She continues to volunteer while working in the force’s Volunteering Unit, sharing her own experiences and working to recruit other Special Constables and volunteers.