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Dedicated volunteers are giving even more of their time on the frontline of policing as special constables, helping to keep people safe during lockdown.
Acting Special Sergeant Liam Burmiston has given 176 hours of his time to the special constabulary since lockdown began.
Special Constables are volunteers with the same powers as police officers.
The Quantity Surveyor, who works for JN Bentley, typically volunteers 50-60 hours a month to policing Hartlepool. Yet lately he has being doing even more.
Liam said: “It’s obviously a really unusual time and very busy for policing.
“Like everyone I’ve weighed up the risks but I wanted to continue to volunteer and to help at this time when we’re needed.
“I’m still working in my normal job but my employer supports my Special Constabulary role so I’ve been able to take on shifts.”
The 34-year-old, who joined the Special Constabulary last year, says volunteering is incredibly rewarding.
Liam added: “I’d always been interested in policing but 10 years ago when I was looking to start a career there wasn’t the opportunity.
“I’ve got a career I enjoy but by joining the Special Constabulary I get to do the police job I’d always wanted as well.
“Every time I put on the uniform I do get a feeling. You think about what might happen that shift and what you might have to deal with, it’s always different. It’s an interesting hobby to have!”
Liam’s recent workload has involved making five arrests and assisting with 13. He was also involved in three incidents involving suspected drink drivers.
He said: “I think some of the most satisfying jobs have been the drink driving ones. You just can’t fathom why someone would do that and you know by dealing with it you’re making sure no one is at risk.
“I also enjoy working with the Medicar, where we go out with a paramedic and we can attend jobs where there’s a health element. Sadly we see a lot of mental health issues but we’ve been able to assist.”
Liam’s employer is part of the national Employer Supported Policing scheme. This means they encourage staff to volunteer and release them to the Special Constabulary when necessary.
Rob Lynas Assistant Chief Officer of the Special Constabulary said: “Special constables have public service in their blood and in the 169 year history of the Special Constabulary they have been called upon during world wars, civil unrest and instability and peak times of demand for the police service.
“Specials do all this for no pay and volunteer their time to assist our regular colleagues and to protect the public.
“It is humbling that during a time of global uncertainty that special constables are once again stepping up to the plate, putting themselves selflessly in harm’s way and providing support and extra resilience to the police service to protect the public.
“Specials during the pandemic have maintained a Medicar function every weekend, have been working with roads policing and alongside our response and neighbourhood colleagues. In total 42 specials have been available during the pandemic completing 2,000 hours between them including our cohort that are in training.”
Special Constable Laura Radigan’s story
Like many key workers, no matter how tired she is at the end of a 12-hour shift, special constable Laura Radigan must now complete a new routine before bed.
At the doorway to the house she shares in the Yarm area with her parents, two sisters and her niece and nephew, she carefully gets changed, puts her uniform in a bag and straight in the wash and wipes down everything she’s touched.
It’s all part of policing during a pandemic and the 30-year-old, who was furloughed from her day job as a receptionist, has now been giving more of her time than ever to help policing during COVID.
During April Laura racked up 70 hours service, double the 35 she usually volunteers alongside her full-time job.
Laura, who has been a special constable for five years, says she had to have a ‘serious chat’ with her family about her decision to keep volunteering.
She said: “As I live with my extended family it was something we had to talk about and everyone had to be happy that I’d had things in place, like getting changed at the door, so that I wasn’t putting them at risk by bringing anything home.
“For me though this is something I really wanted to do. I can’t do my normal job and I can see that we’re needed and that we are an extra resource to keep that frontline going. I know it sounds corny but it makes me happy that I’m helping.
“The jobs that I feel most proud of are the ones where you can see you’ve done something for a victim. Last week someone said thank you after I’d dealt with something and that does make you swell with pride.”
Laura is used to busy 12-hour shifts in Middlesbrough and says she loves the variety of the job although it’s the unexpected that can mean her supportive family sometimes worry.
She said: “My mum always says the same thing to me, stay safe, be careful. And that’s what we’re all trying to do now.”
Middlesbrough Special Constable’s experience
Special constable Andrew Holliday has volunteered more than 87 hours to policing in April, alongside continuing to go to work in an essential role.
Andrew combines his job as a Control Room Operative for Darlington Borough Council with 12-hour shifts working alongside Response officers in Middlesbrough.
An average month will see him volunteering more than 50 hours but during the pandemic that has increased.
Andrew said: “It’s a new challenge, policing during lockdown, during a pandemic that we’ll look back on in years to come. Yes, we all recognise we are putting ourselves at risk to some extent but I’m part of a uniformed service, that’s what we do, we police through thick and thin, whatever the challenge.”
The 33-year-old from Thornaby, who joined as a special constable in 2009, is passionate about public service.
“I’ve done different jobs that all link to each other, including teaching and I think it’s about the fact that I like to see the positive contribution in what I’m doing.”
During his decade-long service Andrew knows he has made a difference and on one particular occasion that was clear.
“The job I’m most proud of is when we went into a house after a report of a disturbance and as soon as we arrived I saw a guy walk towards another person with a bottle raised above their head. I was able to intervene and stop what would have been a very serious assault and we made an arrest. I think on occasions like that, when you can see what might have happened - if you hadn’t been there at the right time - you do feel proud.”
In 2019 Andrew gave 888 hours to the Special Constabulary and his commitment continues.