It’s a strange and difficult time for many of us at the moment amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and for Bristol Energy employee Emma, her evenings and weekends have taken an even more challenging turn.
Emma has been with Bristol Energy for four years, working as an Operations Advisor, Process Expert, Settlements Lead and – in her current role – as Smart Data Manager. But Emma wears two hats (one is quite literally part of the job) as in her spare time, she volunteers as a special constable with Avon & Somerset Police (ASP).
A key worker on the frontline during Covid-19, Emma has been volunteering as a special constable for two years; giving up hours of her own time to help protect and support our city. In fact, in April alone, she’s clocked up over 120 hours as a special constable.
Emma’s a true force for good for the local community. We had a chat with her to find out what it’s like being a part of the police force while juggling her Bristol Energy role during lockdown.
What is a special constable?
Special constables are volunteer police officers who work alongside regular police officers and have the same powers, like the power to arrest and power of entry, and even wear the same uniform. I work in the ASP Response Unit in the force area.
What interested you in becoming a special constable?
It all started because I wanted to do something productive in my spare time. I knew one of my weaknesses was talking to people from different backgrounds, as well as having a confident approach to challenging situations. So, volunteering felt like a good fit and volunteering for the police felt like a really exciting opportunity. I happened to stumble across the idea online one day, thought it was perfect, and applied.
How do you become a special constable?
There’s an open evening for those who’ve shown interest in volunteering; an intense application form (which took me about 10 hours to complete - although it’s since been digitalised and is quicker now) and an assessment day which is made up of verbal and written tests. There are physical tests and obviously lots of security checks too. In total, it took about a year, from start to finish, to sign up and become a special constable.
The training process covered 10 weeks at the Portishead headquarters, where you’re trained on everything from the law of the force through to how to use personal protective equipment appropriately. At the end of training, you graduate and receive your police warrant card, which gives you the powers and responsibility of a police officer. That was a really exciting day for me.
What does a typical day as a special constable look like?
As a member of the Response Unit, a typical day can really vary, depending on the day of the week and time of your shift. Sometimes you’ll get a call for the most ridiculous things, like because someone’s aunt has taken their car keys and they’re in the middle of a dispute. But then there are of course the far more serious incidents we have to attend, which are common during night patrols. Currently, we’re assigned to respond to Covid-19 breaches and emergencies only, which means when we do get a call, we have to act quickly.
What do you enjoy about volunteering?
I enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds and being able to provide support to victims. The role lets me broaden my knowledge of the way people live their lives and the struggles they have. I find it really interesting and rewarding to be able to help people in those situations.
For example, during a shift once I responded to a domestic incident where the woman was saying she didn’t want her husband in the house due to a violent event. After arresting the man, we revisited the woman and discussed her vulnerability and living situation. We passed the incident onto the Investigations Team who helped her get alternative housing with her son. They’re now receiving help and are linked up with the relevant support networks. It was really rewarding to know we’d helped change her life that day.
How is Covid-19 affecting your volunteering?
Due to government restrictions, it’s a little quieter during shifts as there are fewer people on the streets, but the people who are out that we have to approach tend to be up to more trouble. There’s a lot of cracking down on the movement of illegal drugs currently. People call us to report their neighbours for breaching social distancing, and we find they’re actually dealing drugs, instead of having a house party.
What similarities are there between your role at Bristol Energy and your role as a special constable?
At Bristol Energy, I’m a Smart Data Manager, sitting in the Information Services Team, supporting our smart meter rollout project and providing data driven insight on customer trends. For this role, and as special constable, attention to detail is key, as well as the ability to see the bigger picture to drive next steps.
Communication is very important for both roles too. At Bristol Energy I work independently so have to communicate results to the team in a productive and helpful way. Communication’s a big part of being a special constable as a lot of the time, I have to talk to diffuse situations where it has the potential to get violent.
Would you encourage others to volunteer for the police?
As a special constable, I’ve had to volunteer weekends and evenings – my own time – but also on weekdays for refreshers, training and events where they don’t fall into out-of-office hours. Bristol Energy has supported this with their volunteer day scheme, and I encourage others who are able to volunteer to consider it. Volunteering is a very good way to challenge yourself, learn a lot more about yourself and how you deal with situations you’d likely never come across in life otherwise. It’s very much seeing if you’re ‘flight or fight’.
If you’re interested in volunteering for ASP just visit their website for details.