Becoming a Special Officer

Frequently asked questions

Specials

What is a Special Officer?

Special Officers (‘Specials’ or ‘Special Constable’) are volunteer police officers who have the same powers and wear the same uniforms as full-time ‘regular’ officers. They work in partnership with regular officers and the wider policing family, such as Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and police staff, to help keep the communities they serve safe.

Being a Special Officer is a unique volunteering role in society. It is a challenging role but with great opportunities to help people and make a real difference to your community. You will gain excellent skills and a sense of making a difference.

Special Officers have full police officer powers and carry a warrant card. As a responsible position within society, they are subject to police disciplinary procedures and the codes of conduct and ethics in the same way as any other police officer.

What do Special Officers do?

As volunteer police officers, Special Officers perform a similar role to frontline uniformed regular police officers.  They spend most of their time on patrol at stations and on trains, carrying out patrols to deter crime and reassure communities, as well as responding to calls for police assistance from the public and rail staff.  Special officers also help at events and sporting fixtures when large numbers of people use the rail network.  We help regular officers get the nation’s public home safe, secure and on time every day.

Key tasks include:

  • Ensuring public safety through helping rail staff at events, sporting fixtures and other occasions bringing large numbers of additional passengers to the rail networks, helping prevent injuries and disorder;
  • Attending attending the scene of accidents or similar emergency situations;
  • Preventing crime through high-visibility patrols to detect and deter those committing offences;
  • Preventing crime and reducing the risk of terrorism through educating businesses and local communities about common tactics and strategies to deter and disrupt criminality;
  • Tackling crime through confronting criminals and those committing anti social behaviour and taking appropriate enforcement action;
  • Investigating crime by helping to bring those suspected of offences to justice, for example through interviews and collation of evidence, helping with police operations to arrest offenders or conducting enquiries to help gather evidence for larger enquiries;
  • Bringing offenders to justice through presenting evidence in court and support the justice system in prosecuting offenders and securing convictions;
  • Reducing disruption on the rail network through conducting high-visibility patrols of known locations for line of route offences (such as trespass) and helping enforce laws regarding the safe use of level crossings;
  • Engaging local communities and in particular talking to school children about safety on the rail network;
  • Helping support vulnerable people , and  victims of crime.

The work of Special Officers is varied and whilst it can be challenging, it is often very rewarding, allowing you to give something back to your community and make a real difference to those we serve.

What is the time commitment?

Special Officers commit to working at least 16 hours per month on duty. We normally monitor this quarterly and expect to see at least 48 hours of duty performed every three months. This time commitment is important to ensure you remain operationally competent as a police officer. Your hours can generally be arranged when it is convenient for you to work, allowing some flexibility around your employment and personal life. 

Is it dangerous being a Special Officer?

Being a police officer can inevitably involve some level of risk and confrontation due to the nature of the duties expected of officers, however you are given a full range of personal protective equipment and excellent training in dynamic risk assessment, conflict resolution and personal safety (skills which can help you off-duty as well as on duty).

Where can I be a Special Officer?

We are a national police force and Special Officers can work from any of our police posts across England, Scotland and Wales. See a map of our posts. Once you are with us, it is easy to transfer internally between police posts, meaning being a Special Officer with us can work well if you think you might move around the country in the future. Please note that occasionally we may need to restrict recruitment to a particular police post due to space and supervisory capacity constraints (we like to ensure you are well looked after wherever you are based).

How does being a Special Officer in BTP compare with other police forces?

Being a Special Officer with us is similar to serving as a Special Officer in other police forces in that you are a volunteer police officer dealing with crime, disorder, victims of crime, vulnerable people and all the usual demands on the police, but is differentiated by our geographical spread and specialist nature. 

You receive additional training and perform additional duties in relation to the environment we police, and our geographical spread means you can work across a wide variety of locations (particularly in supporting events and operations). 

Our geographical spread also means that the teams at any one police post tend to be fairly small, and there is a great deal of close working between Special and regular police officers.

How long does training take?

For new recruits, the basic training involves an initial 20 days input followed by three further two-day inputs four, eight and twelve months after the initial input (between which you will be on patrol). The initial input is either delivered as a combination of a six-day Monday to Saturday session, and seven two-day weekend (Saturday and Sunday) sessions, or as four five day weekday (Monday to Friday) sessions. The one week/seven weekend format will usually run several courses per year whilst the four week format will usually run as a summer holiday course.

For transferee Special Officers, joining us from another UK police service having gained independent patrol status, the training takes seven days, delivered as two weekend inputs (Saturday to Sunday) and one long weekend input (Friday to Sunday).

What does the training involve?

For new recruits, the training provides a thorough grounding in police work and the role of BTP as a specialist police force.  The initial training includes input on criminal law, the justice system, police procedure (including powers of arrest and evidence gathering), personal safety training, first aid, railway offences, track safety, police communications / radios, and force IT systems.  It involves a mixture of reading, classroom presentation and practical exercises.

For those transferring from another UK police force where they hold independent patrol status, the training involves inputs on BTP jurisdiction and IT systems, railway offences and track safety.

Where is the training delivered?

Special Officers joining in England and Wales (B and C Divisions) are trained at our Spring House training centre in London.  Specials joining in Scotland (D Division) are trained at our Divisional HQ in Glasgow.  In all cases, travel expenses are paid and accommodation is provided for those officers who live further than a reasonable commuting distance from our training venues.

Is there any ongoing training?

Once you have completed your basic training, you will need to keep up-to-date with your personal safety training (one day course once a year), first aid (half-day course once a year) and track safety (online course once every two years) as well as occasional additional training (for example around new legislation).

We support the continuous professional development of the BTP Special Constabulary through running a weekend (Saturday to Sunday) training course twice a year to which all force Special Officers are invited.

What opportunities are there for development within the Special Constabulary?

There are lots of opportunities to get involved in different tasks and responsibilities throughout your time as a BTP Special Officer. The initial task involves gaining independent patrol status, which takes between one and two years whilst on patrol when you will be tutored to a basic level of competency in operational policing.  After that, there are other opportunities that can become available to you, for example some officers take on more specialist roles, for example assisting our Counter Terrorism, Cyber Crime or Operational Support Units.  Others take on leadership and administrative responsibilities, helping us get the best from our volunteer police officers.

Are there promotion opportunities within the Special Constabulary?

BTP Special Officers work closely with regular full-time officers, however to ensure they are effectively managed there is a rank structure within our Special Constabulary.  The structure is Special Constable, Special Sergeant (responsible for a number of Special Constables at a police station or in a sector), Special Inspector (responsible for Special Constables and Special Sergeants in a sub-division), Special Chief Inspector (responsible for all Special Officers on a division), and Special Chief Officer (responsible for all Special Officers in the force).  Promotion is on the basis of police promotion exams (for Special Sergeant and Inspector), presentation and competency-based interview.

Will being a Special Officer help me become a full-time regular police officer?

Being a Special Officer will enable you to experience the role of a frontline police officer and thus gain a wealth of insight and professional knowledge, helping you meeting the criteria and gain the skills, knowledge and attributes we look for from regular police officers. Those who have been a Special Officer for at least 11 months can apply via our internal application process and will go straight to assessment centre without the need for a competency-based application form (since you will be demonstrating these competencies already as a Special Officer).  We are also currently looking at whether a Special Officer with Independent Patrol Status can bypass some of the basic training when they join us a regular officer.

Whilst being a Special Officer is an excellent route into being a regular police officer with BTP, we also welcome those not interested in being regular officers: being a Special Officer is an excellent long-term volunteering opportunity.

Will I receive expenses?

Special Officers are volunteers and not paid for performing the role.  However equally you should not be out-of-pocket for performing your duties and we will provide your uniform and equipment and pay reasonable expenses for your travel to/from duty and subsistence.

As a BTP Special Officer you will receive free travel on and off-duty on all Transport for London services and to/from duty on some other train operating companies.

Can BTP Special Officers drive?

Special Officers with independent patrol status can drive police vehicles in basic patrol mode.  A small number of experienced Special Officers are also trained to drive in response mode.  You do not, however, need a driving licence in order to become a Special Officer.

Does BTP engage in Employer Supported Policing?

Employer Supported Policing is where an employer gives their staff some time off to perform their Special Constabulary duties. Many employers engage in this because of the additional skills being a Special Officer can offer their staff, because of the wellbeing and motivational benefits of volunteering, and because it is a chance for the employer to support giving something back to the local community.

We offer employer supported policing for our own staff to be Special Officers with the force. We are also working with a number of train operating companies for employer supported policing schemes for their own staff to be Special Officers with us. Our preferred model is where employers give their staff eight hours a month for Special Constabulary duties and the employee then volunteers at least eight hours a month of their own time for Special Constabulary duties.

We are always keen to hear from employers interested in working with us to support their staff to be Special Officers.  Further information is available from the Special Constabulary Chief Officer, Ben Clifford at benjamin.clifford@btp.pnn.police.uk.

Please note, however, that the majority of our Special Officers are not employee supported; other than for the rare occasions you have to attend court, your employer is under no obligation to give you time off for Special Constabulary duties.  Most Special Officers are, however, able to meet the 16 hour a month commitment around full-time jobs.

Would my job prevent me from applying?

Some jobs would prohibit you from being a Special Officer due to the potential for a conflict of interest, because being a Special Officer might give you additional powers in your full-time employment (as police officers, Special Officers retain their full powers off-duty), or because there might be competing obligations to the Crown. Our current ineligible occupation list is below.

Group A – Ineligible occupations – (not accepted)

1.       The armed forces

2.       Traffic wardens, civil enforcement officers and school crossing patrols

3.       Neighbourhood and street wardens and other uniformed patrols wardens, including those under the Rail Safety Accreditation Scheme (RSAS)

4.       Highway Agency Traffic Officers

5.       Police Community Support Officers

6.       Employers’ police forces and private constabularies (police forces maintained by government departments and other bodies with powers that are not maintained under the Police Act 1996)

7.       Magistrates, judges, justices’ clerks, and CPS employees

8.       SOCA staff designated with immigration officer or revenue and customs officer powers

9.       Members of Police Authorities or Police and Crime Commissioners

10.   Immigration Officers

11.   Revenue enforcement officers employed on any UK public transport system

12.   Holders of elected political office or those taking an active role in politics

Group B - Ineligible Occupations at the discretion of the Chief Officer (accepted on case by case basis)

1.       Armed force reserves

2.       The Fire Service

3.       Occupations with client privilege

4.       Members of the medical and health professions

5.       SOCA staff including staff designated with constable powers

6.       Journalists

Group C - Other activities incompatible with the role – (not accepted)

1.       Holders (and their partners) of premises licences and designated premises supervisors, personal licences and licensees of betting/gaming premises

2.       Probation officers and youth and social workers involved in the administration of criminal law

3.       Bailiffs, warrant officers, private detectives and inquiry agents

4.       Employees of security organisations and security personnel, guards and door supervisors

5.       Civilian staff employed by police authorities or Police and Crime Commissioners

Who can be a Special Officer?

The basic requirements are:

  • You must either be a national of a country within the European Economic Area or, if not, have leave to remain in the UK free of restrictions;
  • Have lived in the UK for at least the last three years;
  • You must be at least 18 years-old and not older than 57 when making your application;
  • You should be in good health, and of good character;
  • You must be able to speak and write English competently.

If I have (or a family member has) a criminal record, can I serve as a Special Officer?

You will not be eligible to apply to become a Special Officer if you have ever had any convictions, cautions, reprimands and penalty notices (other than driving penalty notices). This includes juvenile convictions.

We will also want to know whether any of your close family or associates are involved in criminal activity, including being involved in any criminal investigations, and will therefore search for any criminal convictions or cautions recorded against them. You must advise family and associates that these enquiries will be made. The police service cannot disclose the results of these enquiries.

What does the application process involve?

Further details about the application process are available on our Careers website.

How do I apply?

Applications are accepted via our careers website.

Please note that we do not continually advertise for Special Officers but rather periodically open a recruitment window a few months before each training course starts. When a recruitment window is open, it will be listed in our current vacancy list.

If no vacancy is listed when you look at the website, you can register on the careers site to be notified when an application is next opened.  Please bear with us, we will be recruiting again soon!

If you have any further questions please email the recruitment team at recruitmentteam@btp.pnn.police.uk or phone 0121 634 5670.

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