Definitions

Special constable

Special constable

A special (police) constable (SC or SPC) is a law enforcement officer who is not a regular member of a police force, but is a member of a volunteer police auxiliary. Many police departments are complemented by a Special Constabulary, members of which are referred to as special constables, or, more colloquially, “specials.” Special Constables hold full police powers and hold the office of constable. Historically and in different contexts, special constables have been paid or volunteer, members of an ad hoc reserve force or a permanent auxiliary, and have ranged from unarmed patrols to armed paramilitaries.

Special constables by country

Australia

In the Australian state of New South Wales, special constables may be appointed by a Magistrate or two Justices of the Peace where "tumult, riot, or serious indictable offence has taken place, or may be reasonably apprehended" and the Magistrate or Justices believe that "the ordinary constables or officers appointed for preserving the peace are not sufficient for the preservation of the peace, and for the protection of the inhabitants and the security of their property, or for the apprehension of offenders". Special constables, as appointed under the Police (Special Provisions) Act 1901, have the same powers as constables of the New South Wales Police Force.

Inspectors of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are generally appointed as special constables, and a requirement of employment as a Transit Officer is eligibility to be appointed as a special constable.

Members of police bands are also appointed as special constables.

State police stationed near their state borders are sometimes assigned the status of special constable in the neighbouring state to allow hot pursuit of offenders across state borders and lawful arrest on the other side.

Canada

Special Constables were used extensively in Canada prior to the Second World War to quell labour unrest. After the war, industrial relations became far less militant and many of the larger urban police forces created permanent auxiliary units. The most notorious use of special constables in Canadian history was during the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. The entire Winnipeg police force was dismissed because its members refused to sign an anti-union pledge and was replaced by a much larger and better paid force of untrained Special Constables explicitly to end the strike and the police union.

Today, in Canada the term Special Constable does not signify a police volunteer. Instead, they are sworn-in and employed by law enforcement agencies or the provincial ministry responsible for law enforcement to undertake specific duties many of which require the powers of a police officer, such as University, Housing, and Transit Constables. Others such as court officers have some police authority but are primarily used to transport prisoners and provide court security. Their power is usually geographically limited to within the city or the province and is can restricted to certain federal/provincial legislation based on the needs of their appointment. As an example, a Court Officer generally would have no need to enforce the Highway Traffic Act where a University Constable would enforce it frequently. Usually Special Constables are not armed with firearms, the exception being police services and Niagara Parks Police. At times, provinces may need to swear in a visiting police service to allow peace officer status. This is frequent with RCMP in Ontario as well as Quebec Provincial Police in Ontario. Cross juridictional issues can be alleviated with special constable appointments. The government may also appoint special constables, who only need the authority to serve summons and subpeonas etc. These are usually investigators from government agencies, for example the Competition Bureau and Canada Food Inspection Agency. It is important to note that the Special Constable appointment, is not a replacement for a police officer. The appointment confers limited authority and the jurisdictional police will still have over all law enforcement authority and responsibility regardless of the special constable. For example, on a University Campus or a Transit System, special constables may deal with crimes, however the local police will have the over all responsibility for the criminal code enforcement.

Volunteers with provincial and municipal police departments in Canada are called Reserve or Auxiliary Constables.

Examples of Special Constables in Canada:

  • Province of Alberta Special Constables
  • BC Ministry of Forests and Range Special Provincial Constables
  • BC/Nova Scotia SPCA Cruelty Investigation Department
  • Niagara Parks Police Service
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Special Constables
  • Saskatoon Police Service Telecommunications Special Constables
  • St. Thomas Police Service Special Constables
  • TTC Special Constable Services
  • University of Manitoba Security Special Constables
  • University of Western Ontario Campus Community Police
  • University of Saskatchewan Department of Campus Safety
  • Carleton University Department of Campus Safety
  • GO Transit Enforcement Unit

Hong Kong

Hong Kong Police Force and the Hong Kong Auxiliary Police Force are the only two police forces in Hong Kong during peacetime. However, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong can, pursuant to HK Laws. Chap 245 Public Order Ordinance section 40, appoint special constables anytime and they will possess any powers given to regular police officers and are subjected to the same Code of Conduct as their regular counterparts.

However, under section 41(3) of the same ordinance, special constables are not entitled to benefits, pays or pensions.

Ireland

The Garda Síochána Reserve is the volunteer reserve section of the Garda Siochana - the police force of the Republic of Ireland. It was created in 2006 to supplement the work of members of the permanent Garda force, and assist in performing its functions.

Singapore

Since 1975, National service conscripts in Singapore have been used as special constables as part of the Singapore Police Force in addition to their role in the Singapore Armed Forces and Singapore Civil Defense Force. These special constables undergo training at the Home Team Academy where they study police protocol and the penal code. After training, they are posted to various specialized police departments, where they may undergo further training. Civilians who contribute to the force on a voluntary basis belong to an organisation known as the Volunteer Special Constabulary, which is a department of the regular police force.

United Kingdom

The term 'special constable' used to refer to any constable not sworn in to a territorial police force as a regular constable.

There have been examples in history of paid special constables who were not volunteer police officers. The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary were sworn in as special constables under the Special Constables Act 1923. However, the passage of the Energy Act 2004 created a new police force - the Civil Nuclear Constabulary - with specifically defined powers and the officers lost their status as special constables. The Yeomen Warders of the Tower of London were first sworn in as special constables in the 1960s, but this stopped in 1991. There are still a few special constables - port police are sworn in under Section 79 of the Harbours, Docks, and Piers Clauses Act 1847 and the Epping Forest Keepers are also sworn in as Special Constables for both the Metropolitan and Essex police districts under the Epping Forest Act 1878.

England and Wales

English special constables have manifested as various legal entities since 1673, but the modern-day Special Constabulary traces its roots to the 1831 “Act for amending the laws relative to the appointment of special constables, and for the better preservation of the Police,” which was passed as a response to industrial violence. The role of special constables was redefined into its present incarnation during the First World War when a large force was recruited to both compensate for the loss of regular members who joined the war effort and to add an extra layer of protection during war time. Special constables were also an important component of the state’s response to the British police strikes in 1918 and 1919 and the UK General Strike of 1926.

Special constables have all the legal powers of their regular counterparts when on and off duty and, as of April 1 2007, can use their powers throughout England and Wales.

Special constables are awarded the Queen's Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct on the completion of nine years service with a minimum of fifty tours of duty each year. A bar is added to the medal for each subsequent ten years of service.

Special constables are generally unpaid, but may receive reimbursement for mileage and other expenses incurred. However, some forces have implemented a bounty or allowance in order to attract and retain Special Constables. Some specials may hold a post within their chosen force as police staff, such as working overtime in the police control room, station office, or computer aided departments.

The mechanism to pay Special Constables has been in existence for some time. In the future, there are moves towards nationalising the Special Constabulary into a fully fledged Police Reserve.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC (RUC) employed both full time and part time Reserve Constables, the difference being that in addition to carrying out the same duties as the regular force, a number of Full Time Reserve officers were deployed to carry out static security duty at the homes of VIP's and at vulnerable buildings and police stations, Part time Reserve Constables carried out similar duties to their Special Constabulary counterparts elsewhere in the UK however like the Full Time Reserve many part timers also carried out a more security based role.

With the assimiliation of the RUC into the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI),171 Part time Constables were appointed in Banbridge, Newtownabbey, Coleraine and Lisburn District Command Units (DCUs). Existing part-time Reserve Constables were offered training to meet new standards of the PSNI

Unlike their counterparts in Great Britain, Part time Constables, like their predecessors in the RUC and PSNI Reserve, are paid.

The Ulster Special Constabulary (see Ireland below) continued to exist until 1970, when its members were assimilated into the RUC as Auxiliary Constables or the Ulster Defence Regiment.

The Ministry of Defence employs Civilian Security Officers for its Northern Ireland Guard Service, these have Special Constable Status.The NIGS is a unionised, non-industrial civilian Armed Guard Service under the authority of the General Officer Commanding (Northern Ireland) who holds ultimate responsibility for the operation of the organisation. A Civilian Security Officer (CSO) is attested by a resident magistrate as a Special Constable whilst on duty within MOD property. They hold similar powers to that of a Police Constable based on the Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1947. A CSO has the powers of arrest under the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (PACE).

Scotland

Special Constables in Scotland are defined as "Members of a Police Force" under terms of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967. As such, they have identical powers to regular members of a police force, both on and off duty, and are non-contributing members of the Scottish Police Federation, which is the staff association established by statute for police officers in Scotland from the rank of constable up to, and including, that of chief inspector, because police officers are forbidden by law to be members of a trade union. Discipline and Efficiency regulations differ from members of the regular Force, and amendments to these are currently under review by the Scottish Government.

Special Constables receive some travel expenses and allowances from the police service, plus a £1000 "recognition award" for all officers completing the required 180 hours of service every year. Their work is otherwise voluntary and unpaid.

Most Scottish Special Constables work alongside regular police officers, and their uniform is identical other than a distinct letter/number series on the officer's shoulder number. Administration and management of Special Constables is generally carried out by regular supervisors. Special Constables do not have a separate administrative/rank/grade structure.

Special Constables in Scotland can and are deployed to a wide range of police duties over and above standard "beat duties". These include Roads Policing, Public Order, Specialist Response, Wildlife Crime and Community Support. Their primary focus, however remains to provide a highly visible police presence, and a link with local communities across Scotland.

Ireland (before creation of Northern Ireland)

The Royal Irish Constabulary began recruiting special constables in the 1920s, largely as a reaction to the Irish Republican Army (IRA). In the south and west of Ireland were the Black and Tans and the Auxiliary Division. The Ulster Special Constabulary (USC) operated in the northeast and were the main bulwark against IRA activity. The USC was divided into three armed sections: A Specials (full-time and paid), B Specials (part-time and paid an allowance), and the C Specials (unpaid and non-uniformed reservists).

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References

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