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What is a Special Constable?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2016
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A special constable is a person who sometimes performs uniformed police work but is not part of the regular ranks of a police department. These law enforcement personnel provide a number of services, depending on the nation and the service they work for. Some are volunteers while others are people with specialized training who aren't needed for regular duties. Working as a special constable allows people to act with full law enforcement powers, and civilians must comply with orders from “specials,” as they are sometimes known, just like any other law enforcement officer.

In the case of volunteer police officers, special constables receive basic police training to provide support in settings where there are not enough regular officers available. In the First World War, a number of nations relied on these forces because their regular police were at the front, and volunteers were needed to maintain order and investigate crimes at home. These volunteers looked out for public safety, supervised air raid drills, and performed other tasks as part of their work.

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Some law enforcement agencies designate their personnel as special constables to make it easier to assist police. State police, for example, may have special constable status in neighboring states so they can pursue suspects and assist with investigations outside their regular jurisdiction. Likewise, state police forces can be special constables in urban areas, where normally the regular police would handle public safety matters, so they can offer advice and assistance such as protection for foreign dignitaries.

Members of bomb squads and other special units may also be special constables. They are not part of the regular ranks and provide highly specialized services. They can use their law enforcement powers in the process of conducting investigations and providing public safety services, but do not have the same duties as regular constables and other police officers. Acting as auxiliary police, the special constable is available in special situations but is not otherwise called to duty.

Pay and benefits for a special constable vary, depending on the situation. For civilian volunteers, the benefits are limited, although people may receive a small stipend for their services along with benefits if they are injured or killed in the course of their work. Members of special law enforcement teams typically get standard pay and may receive hazard pay and other benefits depending on when and where they work. They can also typically access benefits for government workers, including membership in health and retirement plans.

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