Volunteer police constables are being used to “fill the void” created by austerity cuts to emergency services, it has been claimed.
A number of police forces across the UK are advertising for more special constables to help fight crime, including within major crimes units dealing with murders and sexual assaults.
Essex Police are the latest to come under fire after a recruitment drive calling for civilians to come forward for the unpaid roles, which will see successful applicants serve alongside full-time paid police officers.
The role of special constables has been described as a “ray of light” in times of austerity and “chronic underfunding” by Steve Taylor, chair of the Essex Police Federation.
He said: “It isn’t a question of taking a job over from a regular officer, it’s supporting busy roles regular officers have to do.”
An anonymous Twitter user, who claims to be a special constable, defended the measure and wrote: “Essex Police are surely just offering special constable ‘specialisms’ within those crime investigation depts.
“Not like they’re asking local vicar to ‘pop down to the murder we can’t get to’ (Also, Essex lowest budget per population I believe).”
However, Essex Labour councillor Michael Lilley was one of a number of officials to criticise the recruitment drive, describing it as “the first step by this Tory government in privatising the police service”.
He told HuffPost UK: “Using volunteers to fill the void left by the austerity cuts, is not the way to put the public’s confidence back in the way that serious crime is investigated.
“Even though special constables are brilliant at policing and they…