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Coronavirus (COVID-19): the policing response and what you need to know

Avon and Somerset Police celebrate National Volunteers’ Week

Avon and Somerset Police is marking National Volunteers’ Week by celebrating the incredible contribution made by its volunteers during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Over the last year, volunteers have played a vital part in helping to keep people safe in Avon and Somerset. From April 2020 to March 2021, the force’s 310 special constables contributed 81,572 duty hours which is equal to an additional 45 full-time PCs, while police support volunteers contributed 8,579 hours. Overall the special constabulary has sustained a 15% increase in duty hours throughout 2020-1.

Assistant Chief Constable Jon Reilly said: “We recognise how difficult this year has been and we thank each and every one of our volunteers for their exceptional commitment to policing. Everyone’s situation has been different, from those who have been furloughed and worked near full-time alongside their regular colleagues, to those who were unable to perform duties for health reasons but who assisted with the smooth running of policing behind the scenes. We value the hard work and dedication each of our volunteers offers and today is an important day to celebrate their contributions.”

This year we will be marking National Volunteers’ Week 2021 by showcasing the contribution of some of our volunteers on social media. We’d like to start by introducing you to some of the exceptional individuals who are making a difference.

Special Constabulary

Specials’ have the same power, uniform and responsibilities as full-time police officers but volunteer on a part-time basis, managing their role alongside their normal employment.

Meet Special Sergeant Martyn Callow

“I became a special constable two and a half years ago. Most of my career was spent in the NHS ambulance service but I have always been interested in the police. I had some personally difficult times during the pandemic. As well as being furloughed, a member of my family was also gravely ill. Being on duty helped to take my mind off of my worries and gave me a different focus. Policing new and rapidly changing regulations in a sensitive way was challenging in itself, and at this time, Covid also put pressure on our numbers due to periods of shielding and self-isolation amongst both regular officers and special constables alike. Being on furlough enabled me to contribute 1082 hours over the last year to the Special Constabulary. This is almost six times the recommended minimum hours for a special constable. It was a very difficult time in policing, but it was a privilege to be able to support my regular colleagues and community by being on the front line.”

Meet Special Constable Nadia Van Der Valk

I am a trainee train driver, mother to a young child and have been a special constable since 2018. I was born in the Netherlands and moved to England in 2012. When the pandemic struck, I was training to become a train driver. Unfortunately, the course had to be suspended last March. I was given the opportunity by my employer to focus on being a special constable full-time to support the emergency services. I performed over 1100 hours of duty this year and am waiting to be signed off to gain solo status, which I am very much looking forward to. I have now restarted my train driver training and I am enjoying being back, but I consider myself lucky to have been given the opportunity to spend a year working for the emergency services full-time. I enjoy volunteering for Avon and Somerset Police and it is so nice to hear people saying they are proud of me because I have volunteered throughout the pandemic.

Police Support Volunteers

Police support volunteers hold a range of roles including community speedwatch volunteers, volunteer drivers, witness chaperones and puppy chaperone volunteers.

Meet Glenn Davy, Video Identification Parade Electronic Recording (VIPER) Chaperone who helps meet and greet witnesses who come to a police station for video identification.

“I retired, aged 55, from my local government managerial job over ten years ago. By the time I’d been retired a couple of years I had completed the list of DIY jobs round the house and was thinking about how I might find an outlet for my skills and life experience. I was initially accepted as an administrative volunteer at Burnham-on-Sea Police Station, which gave me my first taste of how supportive and welcoming the police family is. It was there I saw the vacancies advertised for volunteer VIPER Chaperones. I applied for one of the advertised volunteer positions and was successful. Following training, VIPER Chaperones help victims and witnesses through what can be a stressful identification procedure. I’ve been really impressed by the professionalism of the police, who make volunteers such as myself feel appreciated and valued, and the voluntary job makes me feel not just satisfied, but proud, that I’m doing my bit to advance the cause of justice for victims, and with a human touch. You can’t beat it really. Just before lockdown, I successfully applied for a volunteer post as Police Cadet Leader in Weston-Super-Mare. I’m looking forward to supporting the police and the community for a good few years to come, in both my volunteering roles.

Meet Volunteer Groom, Ted Grabowski

I was 36 years a police officer and 18 years in the mounted section. My career as a mounted police officer came to an end as a result of an injury picked up while on duty. However, I re-joined the police as a member of police staff, working in events planning, and from there I applied to renew my connection to the mounted section, working as a volunteer groom. As a mounted police officer I had been trained to bring on young horses into police work. I also retrained horses that had developed bad habits or aversions by giving them a level of confidence that sets them apart from other horses. In my other role I mentored newly posted mounted police officers where I introduced them to the world of policing on horseback. In my role of volunteer groom I help with mucking out stables, and caring for and feeding the horses. I also get to exercise them in the indoor and outdoor schools within the section which is fantastic. I’m very fortunate to have been able to go back to something I’m really passionate about.

Cadet Leaders

Meet our youngest volunteers, 167 police cadets, who contribute at least three hours a month alongside their cadet leaders. Their contribution usually includes assisting with local community events; supporting the local neighbourhood policing teams and helping as role-play volunteers in the training of student police officers and special constables. However, during the pandemic, in-person cadet meetings were suspended and instead 81 online sessions were delivered. Cadet meetings will resume by September 2021, COVID restrictions permitting.

Cadet Leader Dee said: “They say, “time flies when you’re having fun” and it can certainly be said about being a volunteer police cadet leader. I can’t believe it’s been three years since I picked up my uniform from stores. Being a cadet leader is not just events, visits, drill and weekly sessions. Leaders also have to ensure that sessions are planned, emails and voicemails are answered, and recruitment forms are processed. Gotta love admin! As a cadet leader, I also learn life skills such as first aid, so that I can teach the cadets. Being a cadet leader is also about learning how to deliver a session online in a pandemic. As great as these sessions were online, I can’t wait to be able to meet face-to-face with the cadets and our police family.”

To all our volunteers, thank you to each and every one of you for being the difference.

If you are interested in joining our Police family, then please sign up to our talent bank.