THE number of special constables working alongside police officers in Dorset has fallen by more than half over the past decade, figures reveal.

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

Home Office data shows Dorset Police had 122 special constables in March this year – up from 117 the year before.

However, it represents a 60 per cent drop compared to 2011, when there were 302.

The officers, also known as "specials", hold the same powers as police constables and work a minimum of 16 hours a month as volunteers.

A fall in the number of specials within Dorset Police over the decade came alongside a 12 per cent decrease in full-time police officers, despite a Government-backed recruitment campaign for 20,000 more officers nationally by 2023.

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.

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.

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.”

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, none were in Dorset Police.

Jo Mosely, director of people and support services at Dorset Police said: “Dorset Police has worked extensively to position itself as a recruiter of choice across the board, including within the voluntary sector. A significant investment has gone into our Positive Action team which has led to a greater involvement across our community groups, and thus we have seen a rise in interest for our positions.

“We have also worked to greatly improve our retention levels during this period by offering Specials continued support and development. Naturally, there is still drop off from Special Constables when they join our regular Police Constable ranks. However, this is something our recruitment targets acknowledge and we have made allowance for.

“Special Constable recruitment will open later in the autumn, with a target to appoint 20 new Special Constables to begin training early in 2022 which is part of the new PCC plan.”