A FORMER volunteer police officer has claimed “poor management” has led to more than 100 special constables leaving in the past two years.

Documents seen by the Oxford Mail show Thames Valley Police had 711 Special Constables in 2012 but now has 599, an 18 per cent fall.

Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld told Prime Minister David Cameron last week he wants more specials to stay with the force.

But Ali Gunston, a special in Oxford for 18 years, said: “They have lost so much of the force to poor management.

Mrs Gunston worked 500 hours a year as a volunteer alongside her administrator job but said in the last years of her service – before quitting in May – she could no longer “fight the bull****”.

She claimed volunteers were not trained on their radios, not given lockers, and waited up to two hours for a sergeant to take them out on duty.

Unlike Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), specials have the same powers as regular police officers, including the power to arrest, but they are unpaid.

Mrs Gunston, a special inspector in Oxford before she left, said the force got rid of more than 10 senior special inspectors and area managers who ran the unit.

She said: “They were called into a meeting and told their role was no longer needed. They could either go down to the next rank or just go.

“They need to get back the seniors because they know how best to motivate people who are volunteers.”

Because of cuts, Mrs Gunston said TVP stopped offering specials officer safety training on weekends, so they had to give up a day in their working week.

Mrs Gunston, a former administrator for Kerry Ingredients in Abingdon, said  special constables were more trusted by people because as volunteers giving their time out of personal passion.
Mr Stansfeld told Prime Minister David Cameron last Monday he wants to give specials annual tax-free bonuses up to £500 for turning up to a set number of shifts.

He said: “Their local knowledge is very valuable to the police.”

In July, TVP Chief Constable Sara Thornton revealed she needed to cut 77 officer jobs by March, as part of £38m budget cuts over the next three years.

She said specials made a “huge difference” adding: “In all our rural areas we have at least one special.”

The current number of Special Constables is 599.

Special Constabulary Chief Officer Mark Hinks said volunteers were a valuable part of the force and any issues raised to him were examined to make sure improvements were made.

He said his team was doing a lot of work to ensure Specials were given the support and training they needed. Officer safety training was given on two weekends in every month and Specials were also given the chance to train with officers during the week.

He added: “In 2013 there was a restructure to better integrate the Special Constabulary into the regular force and as a consequence of this, a small number of Specials chose to leave.

“However, at least a third of officers who leave the Special Constabulary go on to careers in the regular force.”

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