30 years' service for Specials

Two of Suffolk’s Special Constables have each clocked up 30 years’ service.

Both Dean Knight and Matt Bennington started out in uniform in the early 1990s and since then have helped thousands of people across the county.

Specials are volunteer police officers. They have the same powers, uniforms and equipment as their Regular colleagues but give up their free time on a voluntary basis, balancing their personal lives, family and day jobs around police duties. They do not get paid but are reimbursed for expenses. 

Chief Officer Dean Knight passed his probationary period in Brandon in 1993 and said he has met some amazing people over the years – “Regulars, Specials, volunteers and staff who have helped me progress towards my Chief Officer status”.

Special Superintendent Dean added: “I became a Special after I saw an advert and thought it was a way in which I could help my community be a safe place to live. I felt a calling towards the role which has remained 30 years later, thanks to the people I have met over the years, both here in Suffolk Constabulary but also members of the public. I have laughed, cried, learned new skills, had some great experiences and I still have the passion to make a difference, however small. I have some wonderful memories that I still look back on with fondness and I feel honoured and proud that I am still here. I did say I would continue in the role until I fell out of love with it, and I have never lost that feeling. I just hope I have, and am still, making a small difference to my community, whether it is working with victims of assault or other crimes or just being a shoulder to cry on.”

Has the job changed much? “Yes! When I began we had trousers, tunic and a flat cap; now we have helmets, rain coats, body armour, batons, cuffs and personal issue radios. The training and equipment are professional and comprehensive now, with a great team behind us, but the people have remained the same. The support for Specials has never diminished over the years; if anything, it has grown each and every year. Policing is more challenging with the digital age and media now but the passion is still there to do a great job.”

Special Superintendent Matt Bennington never thought he was cut out to be a Police Officer. “I was shy and didn’t think I was fit enough … not ideal police officer material! But a friend told me about the Specials and I thought I could try it out and see how I got on. At the same time, I started a new second-choice career as a farmer and have enjoyed both roles ever since.”

He adds: “As I was working a lot of hours during the first year I developed some close friendships with both Regulars and Specials. This made it easier and I often got called in to work with the Regulars. To be honest, I didn’t think I would last 10 years but as new challenges presented themselves, with changes in law, staff numbers and promotion, I continued to enjoy and assist where I could.

“I think my favourite part of being a Special has been meeting and greeting the public, either during rural foot patrols or at events, just chatting to people and reassuring them. I still remember helping to disperse a large crowd in the west Suffolk village of Felsham who were looking for a (banned) house party. Four burly coppers in a Ford Fiesta (no van available) and then a drive through the village with a megaphone and a large Alsatian barking at full pelt from the front seat. Several hundred people soon left to go back to the metropolises of Bury, Ipswich and Stowmarket.

“Being a Special has improved my confidence. I’m still shy but work through it when required. But the biggest impact is all the friends I have made along the way.”

Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk Tim Passmore said: “The contribution made to policing by the Special Constabulary in Suffolk is absolutely remarkable. Volunteers play a tremendously important part in our policing family and we are indebted to each and every one of them.

“The unstinting commitment and enthusiasm of Dean and Matt for over 30 years is extraordinary, they are exceptional individuals who have really made a difference.  Well done and a huge thank you to both of them for reaching this significant milestone

“Every volunteer offers something significant whether they are Specials, Police Support Volunteers, Cadets or Custody Visitors and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who generously gives their time to help make Suffolk as safer place, we are very grateful.”

Karen Harris, Suffolk Constabulary’s Citizens in Policing Manager, said: “It has been a great pleasure to work with both these highly respected colleagues.  Dean has a great passion for the Specials and is very proud of all that he has achieved during the 30 years of his career. He has experienced many changes over the years and always encourages further change and growth. Matt is one of those people that everyone likes and respects; he has the ability to make you smile, even on the worst days. I know he is very proud to be a Special and we in Suffolk are very proud to have him.”

For more information on the role of Special Constable, visit http://www.suffolk.police.uk/join-us/volunteers/special-constabulary

Suffolk Police are actively seeking applications to join the Special Constabulary from all members of the community. Please look at the ‘join-us’ page on the website  for further information or email [email protected]

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