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Fed names and shames forces not paying Specials membership

Just 20 forces have signed their Specials up for Federation membership - and a legal deadline is looming.

Special Constables with 23 forces are in limbo over joining the Police Federation and could end up covering the cost themselves.

The Police Federation said it had “serious concerns” that volunteer officers had not been told what the arrangements for them are – and has named and shamed the forces that haven’t made a decision over the £26-a-month cost per individual.

It comes despite a deadline for leaders to decide and the National Police Chiefs Council announcing in September last year that the expenses would be redeemable.

The NPCC also issued detailed guidance for chief constables.

Under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, which came into effect on 28 June, special constables can sign up to receive legal protection and representation.

Fed officials warned the forces who ignore the deadline could be discriminating against their volunteer officers.

So far, the Fed has received applications from Specials in the following forces:

The problem began while the legislation was going through Parliament as there was no agreement of a standard arrangement for every force.

A convention of Parliament is that a new duty is funded at first by central government, in this case the Home Office.

But instead, central government said it was a local issue and the cost would either come from the budget of Chiefs or Police and Crime Commissioners.

The Fed has been unable to contact Specials directly as it does not have contact details and is instead relying on local reps to make them aware of the situation.

As on 31 March 2021, there were 9,174 special constables by headcount in England and Wales.

A special constable is required to undertake a minimum of 200 hours of operational duty every year, spread over a minimum of 16 hours per month.

Increasingly, they carry out the same jobs as paid officers including traffic work which carry high risks, and also adhere to the same professional standards code.

Specials with British Transport Police are also trained to carry Taser.

Forces had individually carried the legal risk but the Fed membership change meant they would be given the same protection as full-time officers.

But the Fed warned at the time it could not absorb the cost.

Fed Special Constabulary Lead Dave Bamber told Police Oracle: “It is disappointing that many forces are still discussing how to do it when time is running out fast.

“Specials play a dangerous and difficult role in society, and they need support in the workplace. Their membership will ensure they are treated fairly and not disadvantaged; the Federation will be there to offer that support,” he added.

The problem looks set to continue.

The National Police Chiefs' Council said: "Ultimately this is a force-by-force decision."

The Fed said Specials needed to have their dedication acknowledged by the communities their served and backed by the people who gain from their risk-taking.

Mr Bamber said: “We do not think special constables should pay to protect themselves given that they are volunteers. They need to be supported by their forces."

"From a special constabulary point of view, the law change is a really big indication of acceptance within the police family and PFEW feels strongly that those volunteers facing the same dangers as our rank and file members should be protected.”

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