BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Chichester’s special constables

SC Matt Evans at the wheel of the patrol car
SC Matt Evans at the wheel of the patrol car

RESIDENTS have taken the opportunity to find out more about special constables — and the invaluable role they play in assisting the police force at the weekend.

Sussex Police is actively recruiting special constables at the moment.

And, inspired by the success earlier this summer of Chichester Police’s Operation Request, where officers publicised their whereabouts on social media and invited people to come to talk to them, the scheme was rolled out across the county.

The area’s special constables took to social media on Saturday and Sunday — using Twitter and Facebook to highlight their role out on the beat and raise awareness of what they do.

“I’m glad this sort of weekend has come about,” said SC Loz Saunders of Chichester Police.

“There are a lot of specials out there doing excellent work.

“This weekend has highlighted how much we do and how much work we put in on top of our regular jobs. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoy it.”

After a briefing on Saturday morning at 9am, special constables and regular police officers set out into the Chichester district.

Almost immediately, a call came in about a suspected break-in in Hunston.

SC Pete Babonau was one of the officers who sped to the Hunston Convent after an intruder alarm was tripped.

Four people were arrested around 9.20am – two by SC Babonau.

Transporting the arrested men back to Chichester Police Station, he accompanied the PCs with their charges through the custody process.

As the arresting officer he will now appear in court, if the men are charged.

After the men were in custody, he headed back to Hunston to gather statements and continue the investigation.

Meanwhile, showing another side to the special constable’s role, SC Matt Evans was positioned at the Cross in Chichester to assist shoppers.

Describing himself as ‘public information man’, he helped numerous people, such as trying to assist a teenager who lost her mobile phone and telling someone where the nearest post box was.

“I think it’s important for people to see we’re approachable and friendly,” he said.

“It sounds a bit clichéd but it’s about serving your community and giving something back.”

Accompanying PC Jimmy Upton, he patrolled throughout the city centre on Saturday afternoon.

They dealt with a number of incidents, from children smoking in the Avenue de Chartres car park, to looking out for men who had been rummaging through the bins of the British Heart Foundation in North Street, all the while ensuring visitors to the city could appreciate the area and feel safe.

Meanwhile, SC Loz Saunders was in Midhurst, at the Costa coffee shop in North Street, explaining the role of specials and seeing if anybody wanted to volunteer.

She said it was really good to meet people and tell them what the special constable’s role involved, as a lot of people were unaware.

“Like me, initially I had no idea what a special constable was,” she said.

She volunteers a number of hours every month – on top of her regular job.

“It’s good to let them know you can do both jobs,” she said.

As well as her duties, she also took part in a webchat on Sunday as part of the special awareness weekend, answering questions from the public about her role.

Immediately afterwards she was heading off to Emsworth following a report of anti-social behaviour.

SC Pete Babonau, 33, who works as an aerial photographer

SC BABONAU became a special constable in April, 2008.

He left the force a year ago as he moved to Bedfordshire, but he moved back to Chichester and this was his fourth shift back on duty.

He said being a special constable was ‘something different’.

“I think, from a personal point of view for me, it was a change – something exciting. You learn something different from the normal day job.

“From a police point of view I wanted to go out there and help.

“I didn’t want to give up my job so I thought I could have the best of both worlds.”

Born and brought up in Chichester, SC Babonau attended Chichester High School for Boys and Chichester College.

His family are in public services. His brother is in the ambulance service and some of his best friends are in police forces.

“It’s two different worlds from the day job,” he said.

“You live in Chichester and it’s a lovely city and you don’t see that side to life.

“Whereas in policing, I’ve gone from walking an elderly lady home at night to a road traffic collision, or a theft. You deal with everything.

“I would definitely recommend it to anybody who perhaps either wants to get into the police force or someone who wants to give themselves a change and give something back to the community.”

SC Loz Saunders, 26, who works as a phlebotomist at St Richard’s Hospital

INITIALLY, SC Saunders wanted to be a doctor or a police officer and started studying medicine in Japan.

“I changed my mind on that and went down the police officer route,” she said.

She joined as a special constable two years ago and hopes it will soon lead to her being able to become a regular full-time police officer.

“I want to grab it with both hands,” she said.

“I hadn’t heard about specials until I spoke to an officer. I looked into it and haven’t looked back. For such a long time it’s what I wanted to do. Although I’m not doing as much as a regular officer, I’m still doing enough to make me satisfied.”

SC Saunders said all the special constables put in a huge amount of work, because of their commitment to the job.

“I think if you really want to do it, you don’t want to be doing two shifts a month. That’s not very rewarding.”

SC Matt Evans, 49, who works as a learning support assistant at Slindon College

He was a PC in Portsmouth, but left after his son was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome and he needed more flexible working hours.

He then became a special constable.

SC Evans is normally out on Fridays and Saturdays; last month he did around 45 hours’ voluntary work as a special constable for Chichester Police.

“It’s difficult to put a finger on it directly but for me it’s about service and it’s about serving my community,” he said.

“It’s about serving people and helping people. You do get a lot back from it.

“The guys I work with always appreciate it. For me it’s a personal decision to say I want to give something back to people and the best way I could think of was this.

“I love being a special. I love doing it. I love being out there and meeting people. You can’t help but care about people.”

Recruitment

THE MAIN purpose of the weekend was to highlight the fact that Sussex Police is recruiting special constables.

Variously described by Chichester special constables in recent weeks as ‘incredibly rewarding’, ‘exciting’ and ‘about serving the community’, the role is voluntary, with a minimum of 16 hours per month, however many people choose to volunteer much more than this.

Special Constables have the same powers as regular officers and work alongside response teams, neighbourhood policing teams and road policing units.

Sussex police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne said: “I was delighted to join teams of Sussex specials last weekend at various events across the county.

“It was a great opportunity for specials to proactively engage with people and showcase 
their work and the 
response from local residents was overwhelmingly supportive.

“So far, there have been over 600 applications from people keen to become a Sussex special.”

For more information on becoming a special constable visit www.sussexspecials.com

Op Request

CHICHESTER Police’s Operation Request was run in June this year by the neighbourhood policing team.

It saw PCs and PCSOs take to Twitter and Facebook to promote their role in the community by showing people where they were and what they were up to.

Hailed as a great success on the day by members of the public, Chief Inspector Tanya Jones and police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne, the scheme was emulated at the weekend across West Sussex.