ASCO is commencing our independent review of the long-term, future direction and strategy for the Special Constabulary.

We’d love to hear from Special Constables to contribute into this review work. In many respects the voice of Special Constables ourselves is the most important one to feed into our review. It is surprising how often discussions about the future of the Special Constabulary, in forces and sometimes nationally, don’t involve many actual SCs in the discussions!

The review team want to interview Special Constables – across all ranks – who have ideas about the future direction that the Special Constabulary should take, and/or have views about how the current model for Special Constables works.

If you want to contribute your views, and have half an hour to spare, please share your details with the review team, at [email protected], and we’ll be in touch to arrange a mutually convenient time. Interviews will be 1-1 via Teams or Zoom, and with either Dr Ashley Frayling or Dr Iain Britton, of the review team.

More details of the review are shared below:

A long-term, independent strategic review of the Special Constabulary The UK has a long and proud history of volunteer Special Constables, a tradition that has shaped many other volunteer policing models around the world. Special Constables volunteer over three million hours a year to support their local forces and communities. Over recent years there have been some significant practical advances in the role, training, support, and impact of volunteer officers.

However much remains unchanged and unchallenged. The Special Constabulary has tended to be neglected and to be overlooked in broader strategic discussions on the future of policing. There has been a lack of new policy ideas and real reform in this area of policing for many years, accompanied by a sharp decline in numbers. Whilst much across the strategic model of Special Constabularies has remained unchanged, change across policing is occurring at unprecedented pace and scale. Reflecting many new and emerging threats and challenges, the rapid and far-reaching scale of societal change and of technological change, fundamental debates on community, culture, trust, ethics, and legitimacy, and significant programmes of police reform.

It is timely to consider, strategically and fundamentally, the future of the volunteer Special Constable role. To ask bold questions of why (and whether) such volunteer roles are still needed, and to explore the big questions about what an effective, sustainable, ‘fit for purpose’ Special Constabulary of the future might need to look like.

This independent strategic futures exercise will consider longer-term scenarios and options for the future purpose, role, capability, and contribution of the Special Constabulary.

This Review is focused over the long-term. The Review will look strategically well beyond the time period of the current national strategy for the Special Constabulary, looking across a ten-twenty-year (and beyond) timeline. The review will consider all options for the future, including reserve, retained, and hybrid models.

The review is independent, ensuring all key strategic stakeholders across policing can feel enabled to participate, freed from their current organisational policy positions and from any direct obligation to act upon the findings.

The independent review team is made up primarily of individuals who are currently Special Constables themselves and who bring expertise from outside of policing in academia, consultancy, and senior leadership. It is hoped that the findings of the independent review will make a new and nationally significant contribution to shaping the futures debate on the Special Constabulary, bringing fresh thinking, and appraising future strategic options and direction

The Review aims to report in late summer/early autumn 2022.

Thinking about the Future will represent the most comprehensive strategic consultation and review exercise focused on the Special Constabulary that has been undertaken for at least forty years.

The independent review will:

  • Engage and consult widely across policing.
  • Hold strategic workshops.
  • Undertake interviews with a wide range of key stakeholders.
  • Engage with sectors beyond policing, to identify learning from other volunteer, reservist, retained, and similar models.
  • Learn internationally from models of reserve and volunteer police.
  • Strategically analyse national data.
  • Identify innovative practice and the emerging academic evidence-base.