The number of special constables working alongside police officers in Thames Valley has fallen by more than 40 per cent over the past decade.

The Police Federation claims extra pressures put on specials is behind the significant loss.

It also suggested increases in workloads have made it impossible for some of the officers in England and Wales to volunteer alongside their day jobs.

The Association of Special Constabulary Officers has described a significant fall in numbers across the two nations as a “huge loss” to policing.

According to Home Office data, Thames Valley Police had 309 special constables in March this year, 36 fewer than the year before.

It represents a 42 per cent drop compared with 2011, when there were 534 special constables in Thames Valley.

Police federation chairman John Apter said: “More and more has been expected of special constables.

“These extra pressures have caused some to leave the service, as they cannot juggle their day jobs with what is expected of them.

“We need their support, and we need more of them.”

Special officers hold the same powers as police constables and work a minimum of 16 hours a month as volunteers.

Over the past decade, as the number of special constables fell in Thames Valley, there was a one per cent increase in full-time police officers. This was due to a Government-backed recruitment campaign for 20,000 more officers nationally by 2023.

Thames Valley Police is not alone, across England and Wales, the number of special officers has reduced by more than half over the past decade, from 18,421 in 2011 to 9,174 this year.

In 2012, that number peaked at 20,343 after a three-year recruitment programme came to an end. However, the numbers have since fallen year-on-year.

The Police Federation for England and Wales said a recent focus on recruiting more paid police officers, including some former specials, and an increase in workload for the volunteer officers were behind the demise in numbers.

The Home Office figures show the equivalent of 429 full-time police officer roles were filled by former special constables across England and Wales in 2020-21. Of those, 17 were in Thames Valley Police.

The Home Office said it was working closely with police forces to help attract, recruit, and retain more special constables.

A spokesperson said: “We are hugely grateful to all those who step forward to becoming special constables.

"We value their professionalism, dedication and sacrifice and they play a vital role in working alongside and supporting full-time officers in frontline roles.”

Thames Valley Police said: “There has been a reduction in the number of Specials over the past few years, however despite this reduction there remains a large number of volunteers who are dedicated to being Specials including those that are happy to remain as volunteers alongside their day job over a long period of time.

“We now have an establishment of around 300 with a focus on them being fit for independent patrol status so they can go out on their own.”

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For news updates straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on or 01865 425 445.