Page last updated at 17:18 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 18:18 UK

Funds for more special constables

Jacqui Smith meeting special constables
The home secretary met special constables in Tooting

An extra 6,000 special police constables are to be recruited with 2.25m government funding.

The boost will take the total number of special police in England and Wales to 20,000 over the next three years.

The constables are volunteers who serve alongside police officers on the streets of local communities.

The Home Office said the money would be used to assist initiatives involving the recruitment, training and development of special constables.

'Real difference'

The money was announced as Home Secretary Jacqui Smith visited special constables in Tooting, south London.

Ms Smith said: "Every day of the week, specials are making a real difference - responding to people's concerns and making communities safer places to live.

"The funding I am announcing today will ensure that the special constabulary can grow and continue their outstanding work."

A spokeswoman from the Police Federation of England and Wales said it had always been supportive of the special constabulary.

Volunteer minimum of four hours a week
Same powers as regular officers
Similar uniform
Learn new skills and experiences
Conduct patrols and police major incidents

"But there is concern that there was a costly campaign a few years back that produced very little - only five or six recruited.

"So from a federation point of view, it's important that the government learn the lessons of previous campaigns on recruitment."

Ms Smith spoke to specials inside a mosque in Tooting.

Veteran special Insp Farhad Ahmed, known as Fred, said he liked the job satisfaction he got from his role.

"Policing is about building up a rapport and links with the local community, so it's about meeting nice people as well, often the victims of crime."

Asked if the money could not have gone on "real" police, Ms Smith said: "We've seen more specials, more police community support officers, and more police officers as well. This is not about either/or, its about building the policing family."

Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said the move was to be welcomed but would only restore numbers to levels when Labour took office.

He said: "In the meantime the officers we do have are being funded by increases in council tax precept and spend just 14% of their time on the beat.

"Labour's mismanagement means the public are not only paying more for policing, but seeing fewer officers on the streets fighting crime."

Northern Ireland has 825 "part-time" officers who are paid a retainer to work four to eight hours a week in their communities.

There are 1,513 special constables across Scotland.

Special constables have the full powers of a police constable, including the power of arrest.

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02 Aug 08 |  South Yorkshire
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14 Jun 08 |  Hampshire
Special steps down after 39 years
28 Apr 08 |  Northamptonshire

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