Claims that special constables have been marginalised by police community support officers (PCSOs) have been rejected by Devon and Cornwall Police.
Devon & Cornwall Police say more specials will be recruited locally
Members of the special constabulary, who are unpaid, say their numbers have fallen and want recruitment stepped up.
Senior police officers have admitted the appointment of PCSOs has been a priority, but insist special constables still have an important role to play.
Supt Barry Frost said it had become more difficult to recruit specials.
"They are as valued now as they always have been," he told BBC News.
"The whole make up of society has changed and it's very, very difficult to recruit people of the right ilk to become specials because most people have very busy, professional lives."
Pc Pete Waller, a special constable at Newquay, said he had seen the number of specials fall from 20 to five over the past 15 years.
He believes better use of special constables would make financial sense to the force.
"We are a voluntary body with the same powers as full-time officers," he said.
"We have the same equipment as full-time officers, but we don't really cost a lot and I do think if we were encouraged, more of us would give more of our time."
Supt Frost said the force was in the process of asking team leaders across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to recruit locally for more special constables.
"It's far more locally driven now and we really do want more specials."