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My ‘other job’: what Special Leave means to me

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To mark 19 Civil Service departments signing up to offer 12 days' paid special leave to colleagues volunteering as Special Constables, civil servant Louisa Bentley tells us what the offer means to her. 

In my spare time I volunteer as a Special Constable with the City of London Police. This means I have the same powers, responsibilities and uniform as a regular police officer, but I don’t get paid. If you met me in the street, you’d have no idea I’m actually employed by the Civil Service!

Volunteering as a ‘Special’ means I accompany regular and Special officers on shifts during the evening and at the weekend, often policing big London events like the Marathon, high-profile trials at the Old Bailey or headline-grabbing protests. 

Shifts can pose any number of challenges. This can stretch from the typical policing responsibilities – breaking up pub fights, responding to emergency calls or providing directions to Bank Station – to providing support to the more vulnerable members of society, ensuring the safety of the homeless and responding to mental health crises. 

On a recent Friday evening, after a busy day of emails and meetings, I put on my stab vest and ventured out for a seven-hour shift. Thursday and Friday nights tend to be the busiest in the City as people head to the pub after work and tourists arrive for the weekend. Unfortunately, this means we spend much of our time responding to alcohol- and drug-related crime. 

I spent my evening in a car with two fellow special officers responding to calls issued via our radios. This included fishing someone out of a fountain who had had a few too many pay-day drinks, and helping to locate a tourist’s missing wife. Towards the end of the night, after some much-needed caffeine, we were first on the scene at a road traffic collision. This presented an opportunity for me to use a range of skills that translate easily into my day job.

I communicated clearly and with authority to witnesses, collecting necessary information and ensuring they were confident that I understood and was able to manage the situation. I worked alongside paramedics to ensure injured parties were treated quickly and that the scene was managed well to prevent further incidents. This all involved quick thinking and decisive action under pressure. 

I also worked with my fellow officers to understand how the incident had happened and, using our understanding of criminal law, to decide appropriate next steps for those involved. When the parties had been dispatched to hospital and the scene secured, my night drew to a close. I completed a written report setting out the incident and the decisions I had taken in response. 

All the steps I took in the early hours of Saturday morning are reflected in my day job. I take decisive action, I speak with confidence on my policy area, I work with colleagues to ensure we pursue the right approach for all, and I write papers to share my approach with others.

Being a Special, on top of my day job, offers both me and my team so much. I’m pleased that this is being recognised by the 19 departments offering a new special leave policy to support the work of Civil Service Special Constables. This means more colleagues than ever before can access 12 days a year special paid leave to perform their duties. This is a big step forward and one that I hope will encourage others to consider joining the Special Constabulary! 

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We are also running a Q&A session about life as a Special Constable on Friday 20 September at the Home Office (2 Marsham Street, Westminster), between 2.15pm and 3pm. Whether you are able to attend in person, or would like to dial in, please get in touch via to sign up or request dial-in details. 

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  1. Comment by Sheetal Davda posted on

    Fantastic news and well- deserved! As an ex- Met Special, totally agree on the transferable skills. Reading your story made me recall my experiences and probably the best skill I developed: communication. Proud to see civil service colleagues make such a contribution.

  2. Comment by Helen Hartley posted on

    Amazing Louisa! Thank you for all you do.

  3. Comment by Shuhab Hamid posted on

    A great story to read, keep up the hard work, remember you're Special...

  4. Comment by Libby Watson posted on

    From an ex-Special, I know the commitment it involves and how much your skill sets are transferable from your day job to your uniform, and vice versa.

    Well done and keep it up!

  5. Comment by mike glassey posted on

    "I put on my stab vest and ventured out for a seven-hour shift. "

    Full credit to you, and a sad state of affairs that you have to.