Hundreds of Special Constables attended a unique online event in September as for the first time Special Officers of all ranks came together to celebrate the Constabulary.
Months in the planning, over 700 Special Officers, as well as representatives from Citizens in Policing logged on to the Special Constables’ Gathering 21 (#SCGathering21) under the banner ‘Gathering today for future success’.
The event was broadcast live on the morning of the 18th September from a ‘top-secret’ location in North Wales, with a number of officers and staff from the welsh force helping on the day. The event was also the first time in five years that there had been a nationally focussed conference or gathering for the Special Constabulary.
The Gathering, which was chaired by National CiP Change Manager, Mark Owen MBE, kicked off with an address to the virtual audience by DCC Richard Debicki, NPCC Lead for the Special Constabulary and Deputy Chief Constable of North Wales Police. In his address DCC Debicki covered the efforts of the SC during the pandemic, where over three million hours of duty were carried out. He also gave an overview of the recent SC strategy and the work ongoing there to further improve the parity, consistency of opportunity and development of Special Constables in forces across the UK.
DCC Debicki said: “I am incredibly proud to be the NPCC representative for the almost 10k SC in England and Wales and I am really proud of you all, our Special Constables, a fundamental part of our policing family and the communities you serve. I can’t express enough my appreciation to you for the effort and commitment that you give.”
Joining online throughout the event, which ran from 10:30am to 2:30pm, were a number of expert speakers, including celebrated author, John Sutherland, Chair of the PFEW John Apter and Policing Minister, Kit Malthouse MP.
John Sutherland, Sunday Times bestselling author and former Met police Chief Superintendent was the Gathering’s keynote speaker. He had to retire from the police service on medical grounds in 2018, and spoke to the Gathering about mental health and resilience, giving an absorbing, powerful and thought-provoking talk. John spoke openly about how he loved his job, and the circumstances that led to his early retirement. "Not only as a retired Police Officer, but as a member of the pubic a thank you to you -members of the Special Constabulary for all that you continue to do to keep us safe; to do this as a volunteer is pretty special."
John Apter, Chair of the PFEW and former Special Constable followed, speaking about the growing partnership between the Police Federation and the Special Constabulary and the moves to change legislation to allow Special Constables to join the Federation. “The Federation’s relationship with the Special Constabulary has come a long way in recent years. The role of a Special Constable has changed so much over the last 30 years and the change in legislation to allow Special Constables to be members of the Police Federation is a momentous decision, as well as being the right thing to do.”
Before a short break, a pre-recorded message from Policing Minister, Kit Malthouse MP was shown. Mr Malthouse thanked the Special Constabulary for their work, particularly the response of the Constabulary during the pandemic saying “You are the living embodiment of the link and partnership between the police and the public they serve. You are more diverse than the regular police service and the role you played during the pandemic was extraordinary.”
During the afternoon session a number of optional workshops covering topics from Employer Supported Policing to Neurodiversity, Choose Life drug education to Dutysheet and Leading Volunteers to the International Policing Panel VLEOA were hosted in separate virtual rooms.
Also available were some insight and overview videos from companies and organisations that supported the Gathering and provided some videos, presentations or adverts for the event. These included the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association; the National Police Wellbeing Service; ASCO; International Police Association; Anytime Fitness; CPA; Police Memorial Trust; Police Professional; Catholic Police Guild; Police Care UK; Hard Days Night Hotel; Perkjam discount offers and the MIND Blue Light campaign.
The event closed out with a Q&A session, hosted again by Mark Owen and featuring DCC Debicki, Dave Bamber, SC Lead for the PFEW; National ESP Coordinator Edith Price and Special Constabulary Uplift Coordinator, Esther McGlaughlin. Questions sent in by the audience covered topics ranging from investment in leadership training and progression, Federation representation, Taser, a national deployment model, Employer Supported Policing and Uplift within the Special Constabulary as well as the impact of the national regular PC Uplift programme.
Special Chief Officer for North Wales Police Mark Owen said “Lots of people worked behind the scenes to pull the Gathering together and it was a genuinely fantastic event. We had some incredibly powerful and impactive speakers with us on the day, as well as a huge amount of support from a wide range of policing organisations and external companies who recognise the importance of supporting the Special Constabulary.
“But most importantly, it is a testimony to the Special Constabulary that so many people joined us, in their own time, to support the event, support their colleagues and show a willingness to learn and develop in their roles as Special Constables in the years ahead, which represent a very exciting time to be a part of this unique and inspiring part of the policing family.”