What are the main challenges faced by a special constable?

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What are the main challenges faced by a special constable is a question that we are often asked about. It is without a doubt that this is a very rewarding role, however, as with anything you do it is not without its challenges. Having spoken to hundreds of serving and ex-special constables we have come up with a list of what we believe at the top challenges to being a special constable and we’ve included our top tips on overcoming these. 

After a lot of consultation, we will take you through some of the key themes that came up as the main challenges of being successful as a special constable.

We will take you through things you may need to consider even before you apply.

Initial training

The initial training will vary from force to force. Some forces will run special constable training on an evening, others will run the training on a weekend and others will do a combination of the two. 

It may be that the force that you are wanting to work for runs the training at a time when it’s not necessarily convenient for you.

It may be that you have other commitments such as study, or child care which may make attending training difficult. 

Most forces will expect you to attend 100% of the lessons, this means that if you can only attend every other week you will not be able to complete the training. 

For some, with busy lives, this may be difficult to achieve

The training normally extends over several months, meaning this is a really big commitment. 

Most forces will run special constable engagements events, or recruitment events, it is advised that you attend one of these prior to applying and ask the relevant questions. That way you can make an assessment prior to applying as to whether you will be able to meet these demands.

This may be the first challenge you face in becoming a special constable.


Knowledge, maintaining your knowledge is probably the second largest challenge to being an effective special constable. 

You will be ‘judged’ by your regular colleague, whether this is right or wrong, this will be the case.

You are unlikely to ever have the same level of knowledge as your ‘regular’ colleagues, nor would you be expected to, you’re probably working a fraction of the hours that they are. 

What we would recommend is asking plenty of questions. You will find that colleagues are more helpful to those who show humility and ask questions, as opposed to acting as if you know everything. 

Keep a book on you, and whenever somebody explains a process to you, shows you how to fill in a form or how to use a computer system, write yourself a step-by-step guide. This will serve several purposes; 

  1. You will have a guide next time you need to do the same tasks
  2. Your colleague will see that you are keen to learn, so will be happy to spend the time explaining things to you. 
  3. There will come a time when you will be able to help your colleagues, special or regular this will add to your credibility and you will become a valued member of the team. 
  4. It will help build your own confidence. 

Often as specials, only dipping in and out of the world of policing, knowledge, and therefore confidence can be lacking, this top tip is a great way to overcome this. 

Internal Workings

Knowing who to go to for what can be a logistical nightmare. 

Our top tip for you (like above) would be to write down the names of the people, departments, email addresses, and telephone numbers of anyone you may need to deal with.

As a minimum, you are likely to need the details of; 

  • Your direct supervisor
  • The supervision or contact of any teams you may work alongside
  • The number of the comms center
  • PNC
  • The desk number of the duty Sgt 
  • Human Resources
  • Admin (or whoever does your expenses)

Check out our abbreviations guide if any of these are confusing to you.

Being Part Of A Team

Being part of a team can be difficult as a special as you are likely to dip in and out of work. You are unlikely to be attached to the same team for 40 hours a week. Therefore, it can sometimes be difficult to feel part of a team. 

Try and find a team you like working with, and then work with them whenever your available time and their shift pattern allows. This will allow you to build working relationships with a group of people. You will soon learn who to go for on guidance on what areas, traffic, interviewing, and case files. 

You will soo find different team members who have different interests and skillsets. 

Strain on Relationships

Depending on your home life, a reality is that being a special constable can put considerable strain on your relationships at home.

Suddenly, you may be working late nights, getting home later than anticipated because you’ve got tied up at a job. 

You may get home after seeing something that has impacted you, and not want to talk about it.

These things can all put a strain on a relationship. 

This does not happen in all cases but is something that you need to be aware of.  

Have you been a special constable? If so what have you found to be your biggest challenges? How have you overcome them? 

If you are considering becoming a special, what are your concerns? Pop them in the comments below and we will try and answer them all. 

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