I joined the Specials because I’d always wanted to join the police service and I thought I’d give it a go. I was initially only going to do it for a year, and ended up staying and making it into my 25th year.
When I joined the Specials, we were just coming out of the ‘hobby bobby’ era, so we were just breaking away from fetes and carnivals. I was part of the first generation of new Specials who started to push barriers; I didn’t want to be known as a hobby bobby – I wanted to do what police officers did.
When I first joined I started out doing more low level things and was crewed with other officers. I was fortunate that an officer on one of the sections I was working with tutored me in the same way they do with regular officer which suited me, as I wanted to be as good as any regular.
For about 10 or 12 years, I volunteered about 200 hours a month with the Specials alongside my full time job. I used to be in the top five officers making arrests every month; at the end of the day I wanted to be the best police officer I could be.
One particularly memorable moment is when I arrested a prolific burglar in Biggleswade. I really wanted to get him in, so I waited up a tree for him for three hours, and when he turned up I dropped down and arrested him.
My most significant arrest in terms of seriousness was when I arrested someone for attempted murder; it’s rare for a Special to be able to do that but the Sergeant I was working with at the time was incredibly supportive, one of the best I’ve worked with, and let me make the arrest.
During my time with the Special Constabulary I’ve volunteered in several different departments and tried to make a change for the better in every department I volunteered in. I was one of the first Specials in Bedfordshire to go into Scenes of Crime, one of the first to go into the Roads Policing Unit and I’ve been based at every police station in the county.
I believe I’m the only Special Constable in Bedfordshire ever to have held every single rank within the Special Constabulary, working my way up from a Constable to Chief Officer.
I’ve been fortunate in my volunteering career in that my work has been recognised – I’ve received three Chief’s Commendations, 10 Divisional Commander Commendations, a High Sheriff’s Commendation, and have been highly commended in the Lord Ferrers Awards and been mentioned in the Houses of Parliament.
I am so proud of the team we have had, lost, built and still got, and where the Special Constabulary has come from 25 years ago to now.
The demand for the Specials has changed massively over those 25 years and the opportunities we’ve been given are changing. We have our first Specials Dog Handler, John Power; I never thought I would see the day that a Special Constable could become a dog handler, certainly 25 years ago that would have been unlikely.
I’m proud of every single person who puts their uniform on as a Special Constable.
People don’t understand why we do it, but there is no better way to find out about being a police officer than becoming a Special. If you have an interest in joining the police, join the Specials first. If you decide it’s not for you, you’ve only given up your time to try it, rather than your job.
But likewise, those people who already have a great career and don’t want to join full time, who have always been interested in the police can get the best of both worlds. There is so much in it for everyone whether you have an interest in policing, you want to ‘try before you buy’ or you just want to give something back to your community.
It’s now someone else’s turn to take the reins, and although I was incredibly proud to serve as Chief Officer, it’s time to move on and allow someone else to take it a step further. The potential of the Special Constabulary is endless, and I feel a sense of pride in what I’ve achieved and a sense of sadness that I’m leaving.
I’ve enjoyed every single moment, and if people who join love it half as much as I have they will go far.
Wayne Humberstone stepped down as Chief Officer of Bedfordshire’s Special Constabulary in July, after volunteering for 25 years. Before he left he wrote about his time with the force…
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