Is It Hard To Become A Special Constable?

  • Time to Read: 9 min.

Is it hard to become a special constable is a really open-ended question that will depend based on the person. It’s probably not as easy as walking into your local fast food restaurant and asking if they are taking on staff. There are a number of steps you have to go through in order to become a special constable. We will take you through the process of becoming a special constable from beginning to end in order to try and help you answer the question as to whether becoming a special constable is likely to be hard for you.

Special constables are tasked with enforcing laws such as traffic regulations, maintaining order and crowd control, assisting the police in investigations, and providing security during major events.

As a result, they often perform duties that include patrolling, crowd management, and assisting the police in their investigations. As such a special constable needs to be tested to ensure that they have the mental and physical agility to undertake these duties.

Check out our article on the role of a special constable for more information on their duties.

If you are asking the question as to whether it’s difficult to become a special constable, you will have to look deep within yourself and ask some difficult questions to decide whether this is for you in the long term. The recruitment process is only the first stage.

After the recruitment process, you will have to undergo some classroom and practical training. Then, you will be allowed out to undertake the role, this in itself is a big step for some people. 

Let’s go through the process you will need to go through from beginning to end in order to allow you to answer the question, ‘is it hard to become a special constable?’ for yourself.

What Is The Process To Become A Special Constable?

Below we have broken down the 7 stage process to becoming a special constable for you.

If you work through the sections and ask yourself the question as to whether you will be able to achieve each of these.

Remember, some of these elements will push a lot of people outside of their comfort zone, this is not a bad thing as when you are in the role of a special constable, you are likely to find yourself in new situations that you have not previously found yourself in. This is likely to push you out of your comfort zone and be challenging, this does not mean that you cannot do it.

Please do not confuse hard for impossible.

Step 1 – Online Application

Competency Based Questionaire

A competency based questionnaire is a questionnaire where the questions are designed to test your understanding of a certain topic or theme.

Competency based questionnaires are used for recruitment purposes, such as hiring new employees or evaluating job applicants across many industries and especially within the public service sector.

These will be a written based questions set that will ask you about previous scenarios that you have found yourself in and what you did.

An example may be,

Tell me about a time when you considered the feelings of somebody else when you have interacted with them?

The questions will likely be assessed against the Competency Values Framework (CVF), as set by the College of Policing.

Check out this article for more on police abbreviations.

The main elements of the CVF are as follows;

Public Service

  • Impartiality
  • Transparency
  • Integrity

However, some forces have not updated their recruitment processes and are still working on the Police Promotion Framework (PPF), which was the predecessor to the CVF.

The PPF was as below;

  • Serving the public
  • Openness to change
  • Service delivery
  • Professionalism
  • Decision making
  • Working with others

It’s important that you check whether the force that you are applying to requires you to demonstrate during the police officer selection process. If they do not explicitly state this, it is not going to go against you if you ask the question.

There is not normally a time limit (other than the closing date of the application) for the competency based questionnaire, so you will have time to think about, and structure your answers.

Situational Judgement Test

A situational judgement test is a psychological assessment tool used to measure how well someone understands a situation and can make a decision based on their understanding of it.

These are assessed against the responses that would be expected from a police officer and tie back into the CVF we have discussed above, namely, service delivery, professionalism, decision making, and working with others.

The test consists of several scenarios, each with a set of questions about the scenario. The person taking the test must answer a proportion of the questions favourably in order to pass.

This is normally a timed online set of questions.

You will be required to read a short passage of text which will provide you with a situation/scenario. You will then be given four options/answers to rate in order.

The four options are on a scale from efficient, to counterproductive

  • Efficient – The answer will be the most likely response to lead to an efficient and effective result. 
  • Fairly efficient – The desired outcome will be achieved in whole or part, but it will not be the most efficient and effective way to reach the desired outcome.
  • Inefficient – This response will either ignore the issues at hand or is unlikely to resolve the situation faced.
  • Counterproductive – This response is only likely to make the situation worse and not deal with any of the issues which have been identified.

Situational judgements tests are not perfect as they are simulated, but they are designed to provide a reliable indicator of how a person would respond in a given situation.

This element can be a bit more daunting than the competency based questionnaire because of the time limits. This is nothing to be afraid of.

You need to read the scenario, read the answers and then take a deep breath and put yourself in that situation and think about what you would want to happen.

Step 2 – Assessment Centre

Assessment centers will vary from force to force, and some may not even have one, you may skip straight to the interview stage.

Written Test

Some forces will require a written test. They will vary in format but are normally 3-5 questions that ask you to provide an account of times when you have encountered certain scenarios.

These questions will normally be focused on the CVFs (see above).

These questions are normally testing your ability to write a coherent, well-structured answer

In policing, there are a lot of statements to take from people, and reports to write, so being able to structure a response is essential.

Do not worry if you are dyslexic, reasonable adjustments can be made for you.

Role Play

Some forces will run a role play exercise as well as a written test. These role plays are designed to see you interact with other people in various circumstances.

A classic example of this is that you are working in a customer service position and you have a customer who is complaining.

Step 3 – In Force Interview

An in force interview is nothing to be scared of. 

You will normally be asked 5 to 7 questions. Again, these will be focused on the CVFs.

They are not designed to catch you out in any way.

They are likely to focus around you providing examples of;

  • public service
  • communication
  • teamwork
  • ethics
  • dealing with conflict
  • decision making
  • diversity, equality, and inclusion

The examples for these do not need to be anything grand, just practical examples. So if your example involves communication with your netball team, or your diversity example is challenging somebody in the work breakroom, these can both be great examples.

What Life Experience Do You Need To Become a Special Constable?

A common question that we get asked is, ‘what life experience do I need to be a special?‘, this is a really difficult one to answer, as yes you do need an element of life experience, however, this cannot be quantified in years, or experiences.

If having read to the end of this article you feel like you are prepared to apply, give it a go.

Step 4 – The Medical

The medical test again may vary by force but broadly normally involves: 

  • Checking your height, weight, and Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • A musculoskeletal assessment
  • Blood pressure
  • Urinalysis
  • Spirometry (Lung capacity test)
  • Hearing and eyesight checks

You may have to complete a health questionnaire, which is then signed by your GP. This will cover your current and previous physical and mental health history. This will be reviewed by the force before you progress onto the next stage.

If you have had any significant issues in the past, it may be that you are asked further questions.

Step 5 –  The Fitness Test

The next stage is the police fitness test. This involved a push-pull test (strength) and a bleep test (endurance).

As a special constable, you will need to achieve level 5.4 on the bleep test, the same as police officers. This is because the role that special constables undertake has the same risks and fitness requirements as that of a police officer. 

Check out our article here on the police fitness test.

Step 6 –  Vetting

As special constables have access to personal information, they need to be vetted in the same way as police officers are.  

This will involve checks on your criminal and financial history and may include that of your family and associates.   

If you want more information on vetting, check out our article on police vetting and what they check.

Step 7 –  Training School

Once you are through all of that, you then get to attend police training school. Here a special constable will learn all the basics they need to go on ‘onto the street’. This will involve learning legislation, procedure, and officer safety.

Forces will run their training in different ways, some offer training on an evening or weekend, and others will offer a combination of both.

There will be several elements to this training, the vast majority will be classroom based.

Knowledge Checks

Knowledge checks will form a big part of your training to ensure that you have taken on board what you have been taught.

Role Play

You will have to complete some scenario based role plays throughout your training. Again, this is to check that you have understood the procedures that you have been taught.

They are normally completed in small groups of 2 to 3 with a trainer there to observe and offer feedback.

This is a big barrier for a lot of people, however, you are taught everything you need to know before completing the role plays.

Officer Safety Training

You will have to complete officer safety training. 

Amongst other things, this will teach you some self-defense techniques as well as how to use the personal protective equipment that you will have to carry as a special constable.

Out on The Street

Ok, so this is not technically part of becoming a special constable, but this is another hurdle that you will need to get over. Once you have completed training school, you will go out ‘on the street’.

Check out our article on a day in the life of a police officer for an indication of the roles you may be undertaking as a special constable.

Again this varies by force, some forces will have a tutor unit for specials, some specials will go out with other experienced specials, and in other forces, you will be attached to a ‘regular’ police officer team. 

From our experience, the level of organisation of this varies dramatically by force. You may need to be resilient to navigate your way around this.

Is It Hard To Become A Special Constable: Final Thoughts

So there you have it, we have taken you through each of the stages of the application and training process, so you can decide for yourself whether you think it is hard to become a special constable for you. 

If becoming a special constable is not for you, why not look at becoming a police support volunteer or joining in a police staff role capacity, this will give you a flavour of policing and may help you decide whether to become a special constable or a police officer is for you.

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