30 Hours Policing on the Frontline for Cheshire Special Constabulary

Having accrued some annual leave this year, and since I wasn’t able to use it for anything too meaningful, (thanks covid) I decided to plough this time back into my second job. I’m a Special Sergeant for Cheshire Police. Special Constables have the same powers in law as every other police officer. Specials wear the same uniform, carry the same equipment and work alongside regular officers. Specials work on the same operations and alongside our partners. I’ve been a Special for just over 2 years and promoted to Sergeant in August 2020. Having been signed off as Independent (IP) after nearly a year and half of being tutored by regular officers and special supervision I gained my IP wings in January 2020 and I’ve been patrolling single crewed and tutoring other non IP specials since. I still pair with regular officers from time to time to keep my knowledge fresh and relevant, since processes and IT systems change all the time.

I consider it a huge privilege to be a Special, there is something so surreal about being able to walk into a police station, kit up, grab a set of car keys, co-ordinate with the on-duty supervision go out on patrol, and respond to a variety of calls in any of the core policing functions. It carries a great deal of responsibility but ultimately is a uniquely rewarding role, and you get to see another side of life others will rarely get to see. Ultimately you never know which direction your day will go in. Specials can be trained in all different areas of policing allowing them to gain new ‘authorities’ as their experience level grows. At the time of writing my current level of training provides me with:

A2B Driver Trained. I am permitted to travel at national speed limits, in either patrol vehicles or 2 cell vans. I am not able to use any emergency equipment or exceed speed limits to advance through traffic whilst moving. With this level of authority, I am only allowed to enable emergency equipment when at a scene, stationary, and when the appropriate situation arises such as a road closure’s, RTC’s etc – fundamentally to make my presence known and to warn other road users of potential danger. At the time of writing, I do not hold stopping authority which would allow me to enable my blue lights whilst travelling at national speed limits in order to stop a vehicle. I am hoping in 2021 to gain my stopping authority. You have to be independent, and hold A2B driving for 6 months prior to being eligible to attend a stops course.

Unipar Speed Gun Trained. I am able to use this device to track the speed of a passing vehicle. It shows the direction of travel, date/time, range and speed. It is recommended that the device is only ever used in clear and daylight conditions. It can be used to issue Traffic Offence Reports for excess speed.

Kit
Microsoft Surface Tablet 3. This gives me access to vital computer systems whilst on the move. I am able to search through police databases, take witness statements, and provide detailed incident updates whilst away from stations.

Samsung A40 Mobile Phone. Currently only granted to specials if they hold a rank of supervisor, such as Sergeant and above. Force phones are slowly replacing the old pen + paper pocket notebooks, and soon enough everything will be electronic. A fair few forces have had mobile devices for some time, but this year has hailed the rollout of these devices across Cheshire Constabulary. Most regular constables will now have access to a force phone due to the mobile force phone roll out plan started in November 2020. Non IP specials are likely to have to make do until they obtain IP status. Having only been in possession of mine for a number of weeks it’s made policing so much better. I can get allocated to an incident to see the details and use google maps to take me there straight away. Previously I had to request the postcode over the radio and type it into the in-car sat-nav, which can be out of date especially when attending new build addresses this all adds to delays in travelling to an incident.


and so it begins…

For the next three days, I would be double crewed with 81370. A non-IP Special working towards obtaining their IP status and the next three days would most certainly give their Personal Development Portfolio (PDP) a boost. The IP sign off process requires a special to deal with a number of situations, most of these have to be completed and evidenced a number of times to ensure a reasonable level of competency is held by the individual before they are entrusted to patrol alone, or with other non IP specials.

Day 1
All tour of duties were set at 14:00 – 00:00, but on day 1 we decided to come in a little earlier at midday. After heading into the station, I grabbed my body armour, booked out a radio and body worn video camera, captor and kit bag containing various paperwork and other clothing items (high vis jacket, hat etc).

Kit Bag

Since we had the Unipar for the next three days, prior to leaving the station some routine checks have to be carried out on this device. An alignment check, and range check which is at a fixed location within the station grounds. The range check – if the device is working as expected will always give a 60-metre result, any deviation means the device could be faulty or needs calibrating, and therefore should not be used. Each check needs to be documented in an officers pocket notebook (as it’s a defence that could be used in court to say the device was not checked correctly prior to being taken out on an operation). Once all this was completed we headed out on patrol.

The day started out fairly quiet and we did not get allocated any jobs for the first few hours so we used this time to be proactive and aim to monitor some roads which suffer from drivers travelling at excess speed. At these locations, we simply pull up at a safe spot to park, ideally an area large enough so we can indicate to vehicles to pull in. At these sites, the Unipar will get a further alignment check. Then we’re able to use the device. The device is simple, point the scope sight at a vehicles number plate, and the speed will be displayed in the Heads-up Display. This can be checked multiple times as a vehicle is travelling.

Unipar

When a vehicle exceeds the speed limit for a period we will indicate the vehicle to stop. Depending on their speed we can offer words of advice, or issue a Traffic Offence Report (TOR). These reports are filled in at the roadside and sent back to the ticket office. The officer can only advise what might happen as a result of the offence, ultimately the Traffic Office will decide what the penalty is (Points + fine or speed awareness course). In some cases, people may receive a straight court summons if they’ve gone over 12 points etc. People, of course, have the right to contest these tickets, in which case the officer will have to provide further supporting evidence in which case it will likely go to court.

We stopped a number of vehicles at the first stop-off point, issued two TORS before eventually deciding to move on. With jobs still rather quiet we returned back to the station to grab a ‘bio-break’, fill in the remaining bits of the TOR’s and head back out. Whilst at the station, the control room allocated us as a job. It was a Sudden Death of an elderly male who had passed away at home. The role of a police officer at a sudden death is one that acts on behalf of the Coroner, to build a view to understand if there are any obvious suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.

A sudden death requires officers to be open-minded, to rule out any signs of foul play, check the property for any forced entry or break-in, or general suspicious activity. Basically stepping back and reviewing the location of the deceased to build a picture of whether anything seems out of place. The process includes searching the deceased for any cuts, wounds, bruises or any injury. Once this process has been concluded only then the on-duty Sergeant may authorise the deceased to be taken away from the address. They must be spoken with directly, if they are happy with the information provided officers are then permitted to radio the control room and arrange for duty undertakers to remove the deceased to a mortuary where a post mortem will be carried out to establish the cause of death. In this particular instance, we were dealing with an 83-year-old male who died at home with his wife, although unexpected he had various illnesses which may have contributed to his death. This was 81370’s first sudden death, they were able to deal with it pragmatically, but most importantly sensitively, talking with deceased bereaved wife, and relatives. We passed on our condolences and explained our part in the process.

81370 was in charge of completing the paperwork. I meanwhile spoke to on duty supervision and once I explained the circumstances I was given the ok to arrange duty undertakers, which I requested from the control room. Once they arrived our work at the address was concluded. We left the address and carried out a debrief. After checking the wellbeing of my colleague we discussed the sensitive nature of the situation and spoke how we may be affected by the incident. It is important to reflect on difficult jobs and to ascertain if further debriefs are required, and if needed arrange necessary wellbeing support. It’s good to review the job in its entirety from a welfare perspective, but also to understand if there was anything we could have done better, or could improve on next time. We drove back to the station, completed the remaining bits of paperwork and notified the Coroners office. With another trip out we attended a few other minor incidents, supporting with an RTC before finally booking off for the day.

Day 2
The day started out much the same as the first, kitting up, securing a car, and informing supervision we were available. We then headed over to Sandbach to do conduct some speed enforcement. In total, we spotted four vehicles, issued 3 tickets, and gave 1 driver words of advice.

We attended a few other minor incidents, but towards the middle of the shift, we encountered a vehicle with a brake light out. Unfortunately not having compliant stops authority meant that I was not able to indicate the vehicle to stop. I was able to follow the vehicle for a period of time, and when we reached a junction I thought we’d part ways since we were indicating to go left and the other vehicle to go right. However it decided to suddenly veer in front of our police vehicle effectively cutting us up.

I passed the vehicle details to the control room who informed me the vehicle and the registered keeper had several warning markers for violence and weapons. Since the vehicle was not exceeding national speed limits I was able to follow it whilst calling for assistance from another patrol who had grade 1 authority to try and stop the vehicle, given our location we were very far from the patrol that was trying to get to us. The vehicle in question whilst staying at national speed limits drove around in circular patterns. It would at times use its indicators erratically without going in the direction of indication. Supervision in the control room ultimately told us to stand down, given the nature of the vehicle and the risk to the public, should it speed off within being in an urban area it was not deemed proportionate to continue. A vehicle marker was placed on the vehicle so any time it travels through an ANPR camera it will alert traffic patrols to stop it.

Once back at the station I posted a letter to the registered keeper to send me the details of the driver who was driving at the date and time in question. If this is not forthcoming within 14 days it will be assumed it was they were registered keeper was driving, and they will be a summons to court for driving without due care and attention.

About 30 minutes later we were called to a stranded broken down vehicle on a busy stretch of the A500. The vehicle broke down on the roundabout and the passenger and driver were able to move it further down the carriageway before calling the police. When we arrived we closed one the lanes and helped indicate oncoming traffic to navigate around the broken vehicle until their recovery arrived to help them on their way.

A500 Lane Closure

Day 3
The start of the shift started much the same as days 1 and 2. We headed straight out again, and got allocated our first job. A public order, this took a few hours to deal with as we had to attend a residents address, ascertain information about the incident, and provide some action points. We conclude this job by filing various reports, and conducting some followup calls. After this, we went straight back out on patrol. On this day we were able to park up at fast food locations and make drivers aware of faults on their vehicles such as broken lights etc. During the final part of this day, we backed up our regular colleagues to a number of grade 1 calls, public order in progress, and criminal damage to name just a few.

Just before travelling back to the station to the end the shift we were allocated to shoplifting, but before reaching that job another came in of an abandoned vehicle that had crashed and no driver or passenger was to be seen. The control room decided to allocate us to this incident since it was on route. A quick review of the scene showed that the vehicle had been driven at speed into a sign off the roundabout. Airbags had been deployed, and oil was leaking into the road. We kept the road partially open, but I instructed the control room to ask the fire service to attend. They disconnected the battery and helped to soak up the oil which was leaking on the road. Once they were happy the vehicle was safe, I arranged for duty garage to take away the vehicle. The vehicle smelt of cannabis. It transpired it was not insured and should not have been on the road in the first place. A further call was made to highways so they could attend to review the damaged sign and the road given the oil leakage which had mostly been cleared up.

Thankfully the driver was located and will be reported for driving without due care and attention. A day later this was published in a number of news articles one can be located here.

This concluded our 3 days, equating to 30 hours worth of policing. It was a tiring, but very a rewarding experience and it was my first time doing three shifts back to back. 81370 gained lots of PDP progression and we received some great praise from supervision at the station. All in all, it was a fantastic couple of days. One of the joys of doing volunteering for the police is you never know which direction your day is going to go in, and part of that brings a lot of curiosity, challenge and a lot of the time it makes you grateful for everything you have because others aren’t always quite so fortunate.