Union urges authorities to investigate unpaid police volunteers

Volunteers are being used to help cope with the coalition's vast cuts to jobs


UNISON is urging authorities to look at the increasing use of ‘police support volunteers’ to replace paid staff in England and Wales.

In particular, the union is calling on Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to carry out a ‘thematic inspection ‘of the trend, and has asked the College of Policing to look at the issue.

In a report published at the end of last year, UNISON expressed their concern that  ‘a bewildering range of police functions now being given to well meaning amateurs at a time of massive cuts to the police staff workforce’. They reported that 9,000 police support volunteers had been quietly recruited by police forces to replace the 15,000 jobs cut by the coalition.

The union say that some of the roles undertaken by volunteers do not impinge on established police staff employment, for example custody watch, bikesafe, street pastor and mystery shopper. But they also found volunteers working as drivers, stolen goods researchers, intelligence inputters and crime scene investigators, roles which would obviously normally be paid, or are considered to be inappropriately operational in nature.

Thames Valley Police reported the highest number of volunteer hours – 70,459 over 12 months – followed by Surrey (32,000) and West Yorkshire (19,432).

UNISON national officer Ben Priestley noted that this has happened ‘without any public debate outside of the police service, and there are real questions as to whether the developments we highlight are all in the public interest’. He added:

“UNISON believes that these matters fall squarely into the remit of the College of Policing and UNISON has  asked the College to respond to our report and convene the necessary consultative process to open up the issues to both the service and the wider public, and seek a new consensus if possible on the use of volunteers into the future.”

The call comes as police forces continue to suffer from austerity. This week West Midlands Police, England’s second biggest police force, announced that it will be cutting more than 2,500 jobs, replacing neighbourhood officers with ‘self service’ policing.

Chief constable Chris Sims said: “We are currently at a point where budgets for policing… are retracting at a level never seen before.”

Self-service policing involves updating the police website so that people can report and track crimes online. People will be able to type in a reference number and see what stage their case is at, a change which is likely to be unpopular. Research by the ONS has shown that trust in police is linked to police visibility, with people reporting that they feel less safe when they do not regularly see officers on the beat in their neighbourhood.

 Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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3 Responses to “Union urges authorities to investigate unpaid police volunteers”

  1. Leon Wolfeson


    Being able to track progress online is likely to be popular. (BUT! There’s a privacy issue there…)
    Withdrawing presence on the streets is likely to be unpopular.

    They’re not one and the same.

    Also, you really need to break it down by group – lots of minorities don’t feel safer with a police presence on the streets, for instance.

  2. littleoddsandpieces

    …volunteers working as drivers, stolen goods researchers, intelligence inputters and crime scene investigators, roles which would obviously normally be paid …

    What is the betting that these are retired police officers.

    Volunteers doing intelligence inputting deprive clerk typists of work, UNISON union.

    Crime scene investigators could lose a court case by not knowing a heck of a lot of law that ‘contaminates’ and unproves evidence.

    Stolen goods researchers defies belief. Isn’t that what Police Officers are supposed to be doing.

    Volunteers working as drivers, what to be the Chief Constable’s chauffeur.

    And as for volunteers doing custody watch.

    HIV / AIDs, the deadly Hepatitis, violent mentally ill inmates, violent career criminals, yobs high on drugs, suicidal inmates, and breaches of law in custody that could end up having the Force sued.

    If the politicians had really wanted to save money and deliver more jobs at the front line and support immediately behind the front line.

    All they needed to do was the implement the Sheehy report that said the truth that all ranks above Police Inspector did not do policing (save Chief Inspectors in serious incident units).

    And make all indoors jobs civilianised.

    Many officers over the years have called for the abolition of the Association of Chief Police Officers – the Police Executive.

    Now that there is more and more Police and Crime Commissioners directly voted in by the public.

    There is no need of Chief Constable, Deputy Chief Constable, Assistant Chief Constables, Chief Superintendents, and Superintendents ranks.

    If all Forces had only PCC direct voted by public, and no Senior rank police officers, then all the money needed to be saved could have been done 5 years ago.

    A lot of civilian management was caused by performance reviews and various personnel functions not needed, and managed fine without for decades long into the past.

    But then why would the remote politicians living almost like feudal aristocracy from their education in public schools, actually know about the world about them, whilst stuck in a mindset a thousand years into the past.

    The criminals meanwhile end up being the majority of those who know the law inside and out, and will just be able to use law to evade conviction.

    The minorities have no need of a police presence.

    They stand on the street and glare out by sheer numbers the whores and their pimps and customers, that bring criminals such as muggers to streets.

    Nor the seriously rich locked behind gated village home mews.

    If we are to have volunteers and ‘self service policing’, then we are in the days of the vigilante that is back to the old law of ‘hue and cry’.

    Mobs are irrational in their hatreds of people, and today too many people hate the unemployed, the disabled, the chronic sick, the old for committing ‘the crime’ of living too long.

    A paediatric nurse is attacked because the neighbours see the word paed- in front of the word.

    A disabled Asian man is beaten to death for taking pictures on his mobile phone of yob youths commiting vandalism on the housing estate, because taking pictures is viewed as paedophile activity.

    And the biggest racial divide is not between white and other, but between the huge numbers of races and cultures with thousands of years of cultural grudges by their histories together, against each other.

    Self service is a receipe for riot.


  3. blarg1987

    The more functions that are given to volunteers, the more likely they will chuck in the towel.

    The way things are going in a few years volunteers will have enough of helping out as they get more responsibility as the whole things collapses on itself leaving the government at the time in a very awkward position for encouraging such activities.

    I can only see things getting worse before they get better.

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