JUST a few years ago volunteer police were told to walk a step behind regular officers.
But standing proudly in uniform at a celebration marking 185 years of the Special Constabulary it was clear nothing keeps them apart.
It was a fantastic opportunity to recognise that, to celebrate it and really make it known to the special and the regular police force that what they do is really amazing and appreciatedTom Haye
Around 200 dedicated officers in Hampshire’s volunteer force celebrated the landmark anniversary at Winchester Cathedral.
In the early 1990s the specials were regularly called ‘hobby bobbies’ and ‘overtime thieves’, weren’t issued with handcuffs and were told to walk a step behind regulars.
Today, the 360 members of the volunteer force operate in roads policing, the marine unit, and fight against the sexual exploitation of children – all alongside regular full-time employment.
Chief officer Tom Haye told The News: ‘The ceremony was an opportunity to recognise what the Special Constabulary does in Hampshire.
‘And while this is national, we celebrated it in Hampshire as we wanted to really make a point of saying “what you do is amazing”.
‘It was a fantastic opportunity to recognise that, to celebrate it and really make it known to the special and the regular police force that what they do is amazing and appreciated.’
While the constabulary was set up nationally in 1831, volunteer policing stretches back to the 11th century and even predates paid constables.
Hosted by ITV broadcaster and journalist Alastair Stewart and attended by chief constable Olivia Pinkney and the vice Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire Lindsay Fox, the events also saw officers awarded long-service medals.
Among them was SC Stephen McSevich, who is a member of the Havant Roads Policing Unit.
Mrs Pinkney, who has been chief since April, told the officers: ‘The additional skills you all bring with you means that as an organisation we have a fantastic pool of talent that’s helps us every day.’
Former Hampshire police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes, and incumbent Michael Lane both attended.
John Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman, was a special when he joined on the Isle of Wight.
He said: ‘They stand shoulder to shoulder with regular officers providing valuable support and without them we couldn’t sustain policing.’