Coleford couple call for New Year's Resolution
Posted: 05/01/2007 11:22:50
A Forest couple is urging others to get involved in their very special kind of volunteer work after finding love as they gave up their free time in a good cause.
Walking the beat led to a walk up the aisle for Rick and Alison Gardner from Coleford after they fell for each other while working as Special Constables.
The Forest South Inspector Neighbourhood Area, in which they live and work, is currently looking for more people like them so they are encouraging local residents to make volunteering a new year's resolution.
Describing why she joined in 1999, 34-year-old Alison, added: "I had friends in the police force and after my marriage breakdown when I spent a lot of hours at home alone I felt it would get me out of the humdrum of a single life. I was attracted by the range of work and being able to give something back to the community."
Explaining she had got lots out of the role in addition to a husband and son, she continued: "You get the satisfaction of putting something back into the community and rather than sitting there complaining there aren't enough police out there, you're doing something about it. At lots of the incidents you get a good feeling from having a positive impact on a situation and the skills involved, such as dealing with members of the public and awareness of public safety, complement my job as a technical officer for Forest of Dean District Council."
Rick, a 40-year-old line manager at ADT Fire and Security in Cardiff, joined in 1994.
"I was meeting up with police officers when attending alarm call-outs and decided I wanted to see the other side of the coin," he said.
"It was one of the most life-changing decisions I've ever made and I've never looked back. As well as meeting Alison, it's given me confidence and certainly teaches you not to be afraid to stand up for yourself. It's exciting, you're out there meeting people and you never know what you're going to come across."
Explaining how the Specials brought them together, Alison said: "I was in the police club at Gloucester having a drink with a friend and Rick was at a Specials meeting and came into the bar afterwards. Our eyes met across the table and there was a definite spark which was re-ignited the following week when we met up at the bar again and exchanged phone numbers. We then went out for a meal together and we have never looked back. This was in May 1999, we got engaged in the August, married in the following May and our son, Ryan, who is now six, came along six weeks early in February. It was a bit of a whirlwind romance which has been well worth it and we thank the specials for bringing us together."
Now the couple work a shift together in Coleford every other Friday evening, dealing with everything from domestics to car crashes and street fights. Alison counts finding a missing child as one of the highlights of her Specials career so far and Rick has fond memories of the day he arrested a man who tried to rob him while he was on plain-clothes patrol.
Alison said: "We enjoy working together while Ryan is at his Nanny's for a sleepover. It means we can spend time together while doing the job we enjoy then have the rest of the weekend together as a family. We protect each other the same as we would any other officer we were working with and we have the benefit of knowing each other's strengths and weaknesses."
Huw Jones who is Gloucestershire Special Constabulary's Chief Officer says there's no more fulfilling way of doing your bit in your community than becoming a Special Constable or volunteer police officer.
"I've been in 22 years and I think it's the best way to spend a few hours you'll ever get", he said.
"Some people do it because they want to give something back to the community in which they live, some want an understanding of the police force with a view to joining the regulars and others are looking for different challenges. Whatever your reason for joining, there's a lot of satisfaction you can get out of it. The more you put in, the more you get out and the more you see, the more you want to see.
"There are lots of benefits of the team-work involved and people who've joined really develop as individuals. I know someone who wouldn't say boo to a goose when they joined and now they've gone travelling for a year, they wouldn't have done that before they joined the Specials. It gives you so much confidence, there are plenty who put being promoted at work down to being in the Specials and employers get a lot out of it too as the skills it helps develop translate into the work place."
Explaining that you only have to commit a few hours a week to join, Mr Jones continued: "Whether you've got children and just want to work while they're at school a few days a week or only want to work on a Sunday or on a Friday or Saturday night, if you want to put something in, we'll accept it."
As a Special Constable, you will have the same powers, do the same work and wear the same uniform as a regular police officer; the only difference is you will perform the role unpaid and in your spare time.
You only need to commit an average of four hours a week and these can be arranged very flexibly to suit your other commitments.
Applications are welcomed from people aged 18 and over from all walks of life. The Constabulary's 140 existing Specials include single parents, accountants, teachers, factory workers, housewives and a train driver.
Initial training is provided during five weekends over three months. This is followed by a further training weekend and on-Division instruction.
Depending on numbers and commitments, recruits are able to choose where in the county they would like to work.
There are three Special Constabulary inductions each year and you can apply to join at any time. If you'd like to get involved or to find out more, visit the Specials section on the Force website, www.gloucestershire.police.uk, or call 01452 752167.
There are 48 Special Constables in the Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Division, 48 working in the Gloucester and Forest Division and 44 in the Cotswold and Stroud Division.
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