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The Special Constabulary is a part-time, volunteer body which works alongside statutory police forces. The ‘specials’ have powers similar to their regular colleagues and perform almost all police duties. The role is varied and can be demanding. You might find yourself doing anything from policing sports events to helping guard crime scenes.

Special constables come from all walks of life and form a vital link between the police and the local community. 

To find out more about becoming and Special Constable, please click here.

Assistant Chief Constable (Operations) Julian Moss is a strong supporter of the Special Constabulary:

I am in awe at the service that the Special Constabulary provides to the communities of Gloucestershire.  Time and time again I witness dedicated individuals who are passionate about their contribution to the policing profession.  These officers dedicate so much of their own time to keep the county safe.  They bring to the organisation an amazing range of skills, experience and diversity and make a very real difference to community safety.

“I am extremely grateful for everything they do, for the high levels of skill, knowledge, care and compassion that they bring to the policing of the county. Thank you.


Do Special Constables get paid?

Special Constables are volunteer police officers. Although you won't be paid, your training and duties will give you unique experiences, new and valuable skills, plus a tremendous sense of achievement of doing something worthwhile for your community. We pay reasonable mileage expenses, so you will not be out of pocket for giving your time to us.

Do I have the same authority as a regular officer?

Yes. You have the same powers of arrest as a regular officer when on and off duty and can use these powers throughout England and Wales. You also wear the same uniform which is provided for you.

What duties will I perform as a Special Constable?

As a Special Constable, you will carry out the same duties as a regular police constable. This means you will be responding to 999 calls, arresting, detaining and dealing with suspects - just the same as a regular Police Constable - operating on the front line, supporting victims and witnesses of crime, providing reassurance and instilling confidence in the service.

How does being a Special Constable affect you?

Being a Special Constable is an incredible window on the "other side" of life, one that most people don't even know exists and which they are unlikely ever to come into contact with. You will see people at their very worst (and sometimes at their best). You will have to use your strength of character and common sense to deal with incidents ranging from missing persons to burglaries, assaults and car accidents. These experiences are of course going to change you and the way you view life. You will "harden" to them as you become more experienced.

Being a Special Constable is usually interesting, occasionally dangerous and sometimes frustrating. But almost always hugely rewarding. You need to have a robust sense of humour and plenty of common sense and try to avoid getting too cynical - difficult sometimes!

Can I choose where to work?

This is flexible. There are now opportunities in more specialist roles and Special Constables are not necessarily “tied” to a particular shift or location.

How many hours will I have to work?

We ask that you volunteer 16 hours per month or more if you can.

Can I get promoted?

Through promotion, you can rise up through the Special Constabulary ranks. Each rank progression brings extra responsibility as with the regular service.

Would I receive continuous professional training?

Yes. Once you have completed your initial training course and are out performing duty, your continuous training will be delivered to ensure you are always up to date with current laws, legislation and procedural matters. You will also be working towards Independent Patrol Status, with the help of a Development Portfolio (PACS).

Special Constables are now a fundamental part of how we deliver policing and the Association of Chief Police Officers recognises the importance of continuing to further professionalise the Special Constabulary nationally with the introduction of the national rank structure, national strategy and professional development through national occupational standards supported by the College of Policing.

Conversely, many Special Constables bring specialist transferable skills attained outside of the police service to the organisation and many possess training and experience that are not ordinarily gained within the police.

Does being a Special Constable help me become a police officer?

Being a Special Constable will enable you to experience all aspects of police work and gain a wealth of professional knowledge. There are promotion prospects within the Special Constabulary through their own rank structure. However, time served as a special officer will not guarantee a position as a regular officer.

How old do you have to be to join?

We accept applications from people aged 18 and upwards. The upper age limit is dependent on your ability to be fit and healthy and pass the medical. But bear in mind that the normal retirement age is 60 years and that new recruits are required to undertake a two-year probationary period.

Do you have to be a UK citizen?

You must be a British citizen, an EC/EEA national or a Commonwealth citizen or foreign national with no restrictions on your stay in the United Kingdom.

Foreign nationals and UK citizens who have lived abroad may have to wait some time for security and vetting clearance. All applicants have to be vetted to the same standard before appointment.

You have to have been resident in the UK for 3 years before applying, the exception being if the absence was for less than three months or if you were serving or living outside the UK as a result of a military deployment. 

Can I join if I have a criminal record?

A number of crimes will mean a definite or likely rejection of your application, including anyone who has received a formal caution in the last five years, committed a violent crime or public order offence. When applying we would recommend honesty.

Will my financial status affect my application?

Applicants will have their financial status checked. These checks are carried out because police officers/staff have access to privileged information, which may make them vulnerable to corruption.

Applicants with outstanding county court judgements or who have been registered bankrupt with outstanding debts will be rejected.

Residency criteria

The need for the residency rule arises from the requirement to vet all applicants in an equitable manner. This is because the UK police service does not currently have any means of facilitating vetting enquiries overseas to the extent required for those who are resident in the UK.

The purpose of the residency criteria is to ensure that applicants have a checkable history in the UK, so that meaningful vetting enquiries can be undertaken. The criteria provide reassurance when considering the health and safety of police personnel and the public. Effective vetting cannot be conducted if there is no way to assess the honesty, integrity, reliability and overall suitability for clearance of appointees against the information available.

The residency requirements refer to the period immediately before an application is made, and not any other three-, five-, or ten-year period, or any other accumulation of time spent in the UK.

Application of the residency criteria

If an individual resides permanently in the UK, they are considered to be a UK resident.

An individual who has moved overseas and severed major ties to the UK (e.g., closed bank accounts and sold property) is considered to have surrendered their residency in the UK. This would also apply to people who maintain bank accounts purely for the purpose of receiving regular payments, e.g., a UK pension.

An individual is considered to be on an extended holiday if they have:

  • spent a significant period of time overseas without returning to the UK, but intend to return in the future
  • taken a gap year before or following university
  • travelled for a year
  • spent time overseas visiting family

This is not an exhaustive list.

Individuals who meet the above criteria maintain their UK residency and may therefore be considered for vetting clearance.

Serving with the HMG or armed forces

An individual who has been posted overseas as part of their service with HMG or the armed forces is considered to have been resident in the UK for the period that they were abroad.

Where an individual has been overseas as the spouse, partner or dependent of a member of the armed forces posted overseas, they can be considered to have been resident in the UK if their place of residence was within the confines of the establishment, e.g., a military base. If they were residing outside this, they are considered to have been resident overseas.

For the purposes of force vetting, the following residency requirements apply:

  • recruitment vetting (RV) – three years
  • management vetting (MV) – five years
  • non-police personnel vetting (NPPV) – three years
Page last updated: 16 January 2019