Vital volunteers, or just policing on the cheap?

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As the police appeal for more volunteers to help out as special constables, the Labour candidate for police and crime commissioner says we must beware it doesn’t turn into policing on the cheap.

Sherma Baston, who is fighting against police cuts in the area, has said that having more special constables may help the workload, but it’s also important to retain the experience and expertise of trained officers.

The county force has to bridge a 20 per cent funding gap over the next four years, and is expected to have to make savings of £35.9 million from its budget.

Its current policing plan states some savings will be made by cutting 550 officer and police staff posts, which includes 65 officers this year.

The force has pledged to maintain neighbourhood policing teams at their current levels for the next two years and to minimise the impact on frontline policing.

Recent calls for people to volunteer as special constables, who have full police powers, uniform and protective equipment and are trained to work alongside regular officers, prompted Ms Baston’s warning.

Herts Police has 400 special constables and wants more people to work alongside safer neighbourhood teams, help rural police teams and even take part in specialist operations but insists they will not replace regular officers..

Ms Baston said: “An increase in their numbers will help policing across the county.

“But the recruitment of special constables should not be seen as an excuse for cutting the numbers of police and turning it into policing on the cheap.

“It is already predicted in an independent report that Hertfordshire will see a cut of more than 130 front-line police officers.