As Parliament prepares to amend the law to allow Special Constables to join the Police Federation, Sophie Garrod meets one who has volunteered for 40 years

pecial Constable Derek Hopkins has experienced his fair share of scary moments during four decades of

volunteering with Essex Police. His closest shave to date was in 2001, when a stolen tipper truck he was perusing drove over his ANPR car, crushing the backseat! It shows how Specials face the same dangers as their full-time counterparts. It all started for Derek in 1980. After breaking his right wrist playing football, he was practising writing left-handed by filling out coupons in a newspaper. One was an advert for the Special Constabulary. He already had experience of the emergency services through a job with Essex Fire Brigade and, before he knew it, he was signed up as a Special Constable. Derek explained: “Specials were regarded

as hobby bobbies back in the day, but they are very much embedded into frontline policing now. We are a core part of the policing solution and we are not just an afterthought. We are that resilience in peak demand. It has been interesting working with the team during the pandemic. They are in different positions in their work life, some were furloughed and found they had extra time on their hands and have been spending that helping communities through their policing. “We can’t do this without the support of our families though and the amount of support they give. I wouldn’t have been able to continue without the support of my wife.”

New legislation

Derek received the MBE for his services to policing and he is now the Deputy Chief Officer within the Essex Special Constabulary. He helps keep the county safe as part of the Road Crime Team and regularly carries out roadside stop checks. During Covid, his team put in thousands of hours collecting and delivering PPE for Essex Police and the local NHS.

He is delighted about the impending

change in legislation – via the Police Powers and Protections Bill due before Parliament

Derek Hopkins (Photograph: Essex Police)

David Bamber

and expected to become law in April 2021 – which will enable members of the Special Constabulary to join the Police Federation if they wish to. Derek said: “As we move forward in policing and the risks are becoming more equal, we should have that protection. I once had an issue where somebody said I had not looked after a crash victim appropriately as he was a disqualified driver. In fact, I spent two and a half hours looking after him. It was resolved but you still have that concern.” At 67 is retirement on the cards for

Derek? “I won’t go just yet unless I have to, although the annual fitness test is a challenge,” he said.

Legal liabilities PFEW National Board member Dave Bamber is working closely with the Home Office and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) to iron out the details of Specials joining the Federation. He explained it is not without risks. “No other union or association has taken on volunteers,” he said. “It exposes PFEW to greater legal liabilities but we feel strongly that this course is the right one. As warranted officers, Specials are exposed to the same

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risks and dangers as other officers and it is only right that they should have the same workplace protections.” Mr Bamber is a former Special, as is the current National Chair John Apter. He believes it would not be fair to ask a volunteer to pay the monthly Federation subscription so PFEW is negotiating for PCCs to cover the cost directly or through a council tax rebate. “Federation membership is much more than legal cover,” said Mr Bamber. “For example, if a Special is killed or incapacitated their spouse is currently entitled to a pension. This is still the same amount as when it was introduced in the 1960s. This is a good example of where, if Specials were in the Federation, we would negotiate an appropriate increase. And, as full members, Specials will be entitled to training, negotiation around working conditions and expenses and be able to join Federation boards too.”

Closer working DCC Richard Debicki, the Lead for the Special Constabulary in England and Wales on the National Police Chiefs’ Council, also supports Specials joining the Federation. He said: “As we are also looking to involve Special Constables in more and more aspects of policing, working ever more closely with regular colleagues, then it feels ever more pressing for them to have the opportunity to be adequately represented and this is the perfect time to welcome our valued volunteer police officers having enhanced levels of protection.”


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