Volunteers are the future of policing in Derbyshire, says PCC hopeful

Richard Bright, Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire
Richard Bright, Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire

A candidate for Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Elections in May wants to boost the role of Special Constables - allowing them to take on all the training available to paid police officers.

Richard Bright (pictured), who is the Conservative candidate for the PCC role, says more needs to be done to attract ‘community-minded people’ to join the Specials.

Under his vision for the county’s policing, Mr Bright told the Derbyshire Times that he wants all policing roles to be available for volunteers - with the exception of firearms training.

The move could lead to Specials taking on roles such as dog handlers, roads policing and criminal investigation.

He is also calling on retired police officers to volunteer their services and for Neighbourhood Watch groups to be given more recognition.

He said: “Being a Special is something that people should be very proud of, so when you become a Special you should have all the opportunities that a regular officer gets - with the exception of firearms training.

“I think that if you offer people that level of training and expertise then it will bring a lot of community-minded people into it.

“There are also a lot of retired police officers who would still like to be involved, not as Specials but just by adding their years of experience and lending a hand.

“If I was not running for the Police and Crime Commissioner role, becoming a Special is something I would seriously consider.”

At present, Specials typically work to support neighbourhood policing teams, “providing a visible uniformed presence to reduce the fear of crime and promote confidence within communities”.

Derbyshire Constabulary currently has a recruitment freeze in place for trainee police constables, along with many forces around the UK due to severe budget cuts from central Government.

In Derbyshire, The force has already lost more than 450 officers and Chief Constable Mick Creedon has previously stated that he expects a similar number to go by 2019.

Police stations have already closed around the county with the sale of more than 50 buildings owned by the constabulary.

Due to a lack of resources, the force has also stated that it will no longer be able to actively prosecute small-scale cannabis growing and consumption, and that it lacks the manpower to police the recently-introduced smoking ban in cars.

But Mr Bright, who lives in Ashbourne and sits as a councillor on Derbyshire Dales District Council, said that more needs to be done to get the constabulary ‘working smarter’.

He wants to introduce mobile technology currently being used by Staffordshire police to allow police officers to complete essential paperwork without the need to return to police stations, to allow them more time in the community.

Additionally, the native Londoner wants to introduce technology that will tactically send the most appropriate unit to emergency call-outs, and to establish closer working relationships with other emergency services and specialists, such as social services.

He also wants a bigger focus on rural policing in Derbyshire, with a significant amount of the constabulary’s £169.472m budget going towards policing inner-city Derby.

“We need to make sure that the right person is going to the scene,” Mr Bright said. “That’s not to say that the police shouldn’t attend, but you need to make sure that the right people are attending incidents.

“We also need to ensure that we are getting police officers back out into communities, because intelligence is the key to tackling crime, and to ensure we are hitting a fair balance between the needs of rural and urban policing.”

Mr Bright’s policing priorities are:

- To bring back visible neighbourhood policing

- To protect vulnerable people of all ages

- To ensure rural policing is properly resourced

- Increase support for the Special constabulary

- Embrace new technology to reduce red tape

- Keep the public safe and secure from terrorism.

The election for Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner will take place in May. Other candidates recently announced include former police officer Stuart Yeowart (UKiP), and Derby City Councillor Hardyal Dhindsa (Labour),