Our volunteer police officers have been presented with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service to mark the huge contribution they make in helping to keep our county safe.
Essex Lord-Lieutenant Jennifer Tolhurst presented the award on behalf of the Queen to Derek Hopkins MBE, Deputy Chief Officer of the Essex Police Special Constabulary, who received it on behalf of the force’s 504 Specials.
The QAVS is the highest award for local voluntary groups and it is awarded for life.
Mrs Tolhurst told Derek - who has volunteered as a Special for more than 41 years - fellow Specials, police staff and dignitaries, that the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is described as the MBE for voluntary groups.
It recognises the very special achievement by volunteers who regularly devote their time to helping others in the community, improving the quality of life and opportunity for others and providing outstanding service.
“This is an opportunity to thank you for all that you do working alongside the police and reassuring the general public. I would also like to recognise the dedicated people who support the Special Constabulary, looking after the training, equipping, marketing and general support of the volunteers, whose availability, inevitably, will be flexible. “Everyone involved with the Essex Police Special Constabulary shares in the prestige of this award. “I hope too that it will be a real boost to your morale, although, having talked to some of you today, I realise your morale doesn’t need boosting. You are all enjoying yourselves enormously and doing such valuable work.” Essex Lord-Lieutenant Jennifer Tolhurst
“You have put yourselves forward as volunteers to protect and serve. You have put yourselves forward to catch criminals, to protect people and to keep people safe. “In doing this, you have placed the needs of others before your own. You have vowed to act with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, to prevent offences against people and property and to do this according to the law. “To those who would do harm, you are determined and relentless in your pursuit of justice. To those who are victims of crime, you are caring and compassionate. To those you work with, you are dependable, diligent and inclusive, ensuring they are a valued member of our team. “And to all you meet, you are respectful and trustworthy. You police with consent – the consent of every member of our society, whoever they are, however they define themselves and whatever their beliefs. “This has never been easy. But you have done it. And today, your diligence and professionalism have been recognised.” Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington
Essex High Sheriff Simon Brice then surprised everyone by presenting Derek and the Essex Police Special Constabulary with a High Sheriff’s Award to recognise all our volunteer police officers who 'give up their time to commit themselves to providing vital support across the policing spectrum in Essex'.
“I truly believe in the value our Special Constabulary bring to Essex Police. The Chief Constable talks about the public being the police and the police being the public – you are such an important link between policing, community safety and the communities you serve. “It really is an important building block of the legitimacy of Essex Police in this county. You are part of it and you are doing it on a voluntary basis. It’s amazing. And the time committed is equivalent to 100 regular officers, which gives you a sense of how important you are. “I also want to commend you for the sacrifices you make on a voluntary basis that regular officers make on a professional basis. You are not just assisting, you are performing independently to ensure public safety across the county, to prevent and tackle crime, to deal with bad guys and make a positive difference in a very important way. “Thank you for the hours you give for free for the benefit of our communities. Thank you for the great work you do. Thank you for putting yourselves on the front line and protecting the county.” Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst
Prior to the presentation, 28 of our Specials were inspected by Mr Harrington, Mrs Tolhurst and her husband Philip, Mr Brice and his wife Emma, Mr Hirst, Deputy Chief Constable Andy Prophet, Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Nolan and Deputy Chief Officer Derek Hopkins.
Superintendent Shaun Kane, head of Essex Police Special Constabulary, says it is 'wonderful' that our Specials and the team who support them have been recognised by the Queen.
“It’s an amazing achievement and reflects the huge part our volunteer police officers play in making Essex a safe place to live, work and visit. “Many of our Specials balance their volunteering with demanding day jobs and many are parents, too. Like everyone else, they have faced personal challenges during the pandemic but their mission to continue helping the public and to give something back has been so inspiring. “Many were furloughed, for others, their workloads increased, or they faced challenges around childcare and some self-isolated during the earlier part of the pandemic. But most returned to full duties by the summer, fully aware of the risks they were exposing themselves to. “They provided a significant level of support to the force, providing police attendance and action as well as indirect support via reassurance patrols and community engagement during a challenging time. “Four years ago, the force also invested in more support for our Specials, across recruitment, training, in our Business Centre and Vetting team and a development team to focus on retention through opportunity, engagement, integration and training and promoting Employer Supported Policing to businesses and recruiting Community Special Constables, who are supported by their local town or parish council. “I’m proud that their hard work to ensure our Specials have a great volunteering experience has also been recognised by this award.” Superintendent Shaun Kane, head of Essex Police Special Constabulary
Special Inspector Kelly Bingham has volunteered as a Special since 2002. She wanted to be a regular police officer but we weren’t recruiting at the time. She then got a day job she really enjoyed so she joined our Special Constabulary instead.
Kelly now works in the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service Control room and is a mother of one but still finds the time to supervise teams of special constables and sergeants in Basildon local policing and community policing teams (LPT and CPT).
Kelly is responsible for HR matters and her teams’ welfare and development. She also links in with LPT and CPT inspectors to plan operations and Specials’ staffing according to each team’s needs, making sure support is boosted at busy times, such as Hallowe’en, Bonfire Night and the Christmas period.
“I love helping people and making the people I work with feel comfortable and part of a bigger team. But I also enjoy making a difference and, in my role, I can get involved with events, community engagement and speaking with people. “We are one big team here in Basildon and we get on so well. Although we are volunteers, we have proved what we can do and what we can offer to support the regular officers and we have a great relationship with them.” Special Inspector Kelly Bingham
Special Superintendent Leon Dias also wanted to become a police officer but, at the age of 18, he was told to get some ‘life experience’. He took up a different career but has been volunteering as a Special for 25 years.
“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be in the police. I remember going to Colchester Fire Station when I was 10 or 11 and they had a police officer and a traffic car there and I was blown away by it. “Now I’m a Special Superintendent with our Operational Policing Command, which includes the Operational Support Group, Dog Section and Roads Policing. I would say I’ve got the best Special Superintendent job in the force and I’ve got a really good team of people. Our commitment is that our Specials will be trained to the same level that the specialist regular officers are. “What makes being a Special special is the variety. You sometimes hear something happening on the news and you want to be part of it. Being a Special is the best way of doing that. So, when I see something on the news I think that in a very small way, I’ve been a part of that. “It’s fantastic that we have received this award. We swear an oath to the Queen and for the Queen to recognise the Essex Specials is amazing. There’s no higher honour but we’ve only got it because everyone works towards it, it’s taken a team effort to get us to this. Going through the pandemic, the Specials really stepped up so to get the award the following year makes it even more worthwhile.” Special Superintendent Leon Dias
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service recognises the tremendous input our Specials make and the way they work with our regular police officers to provide the best service they can to the 1.8million people who live in, work in and visit Essex. The award also includes a ‘special designation’ for the support they provided during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
During the first lockdown, between March and June 2020, many of our Specials were furloughed from their day jobs and increased their contribution, volunteering more than 54,000 operational hours and providing visible policing to help their communities during unprecedented times.
Now things have returned to normal and last month, our 504 volunteer officers spent almost 16,000 hours helping people, keeping them safe and catching criminals. That’s an average of 31.5hrs each.
And this is a considerable rise from approximately 10,700 hours volunteered by 408 officers - an average of 26.2hours each - in October 2017, six months after our Specials Development Programme began.
Our Citizens In Policing development manager Sarah Wright says: “I feel incredibly proud of our Specials and everything they have done and contributed to our communities. I’m also really proud of the work the wider team of police staff ‘sitting’ behind the Specials has done to support them so they can achieve this.
“Four years ago, we consulted all our Specials to find out what they needed and wanted to be able to perform their job effectively and then we set about putting those things into place and integrating them with teams of regular officers. “Support comes from across the force, including the Recruitment, Vetting and Media & Communications teams, Business Services and Uniform Stores, trainers & professional development officers and, of course, all our regular police officers. “We don’t just recruit. We have to look after the volunteers we have got and ensure that our Specials are genuinely valued. We believe that being a special constable is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable volunteering experiences within Essex and we want that to continue. We now have Specials who are trained in Response driving and public order policing, to ride motorbikes and to pilot drones or who work as investigators in various teams. “The Special Constabulary as a whole has been recognised as a voluntary team who have made a significant contribution to their communities and enhance the service the force already provides. It gives those communities the opportunity to be part of our policing team - to come in and make a difference. “The support they have given back is incredible. “Working with volunteers is a really great area to work in. It makes you really quite humble about what you do and I think it makes you a better person and certainly more caring.” Sarah Wright, Citizens In Policing development manager
We have the fastest-growing and second-largest Special Constabulary in the country and this year, the work of our Employer Supported Policing scheme was recognised at the annual Lord Ferrers Awards and our unique Community Special Constable scheme – which is now being adopted by other forces – has seen Specials supported by town and parish councils to help keep their local communities safe.
Last year, our Specials made 1,163 arrests and submitted 6,417 traffic reports. They spent 2,559 hours searching for missing people and another 2,779 dealing with mental health incidents. And they conducted 820 licensing checks and 755 breath tests.
Do you want to help to keep your community safe?
Special Constables are volunteers who have the same full police powers, uniform and equipment and work alongside their regular colleagues attending and dealing with a wide variety of incidents. Community Special Constables work almost exclusively in their sponsoring parish concentrating on issues specific to that area.
We are always looking for more volunteers to join the Special Constabulary, whether you want to become a Community Special Constable dedicated to your local town or parish or police a little further afield.