West Midlands Police has welcomed the first group of BCU Specials onto the region’s streets after they completed their training earlier this summer.
The partnership means students keen on a career in policing can sample what it’s like and make a difference, while also continuing their studies.
The inaugural 11-strong cohort, from the university’s professional policing course, started their training before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
But following a short disruption they were able to continue this online, and while respecting Government guidelines, to become qualified for the role.
Ryan Malton is successfully combining his university degree, working part-time at a supermarket and being a Special.
The 24-year-old spends his weekends as a volunteer, doing around 60 hours a month, and his early days as a Special have reinforced his ambition of becoming a full-time cop in future.
Ryan currently works alongside the Sandwell Taskforce officers with an emphasis on tackling domestic abuse. But he has already spent time with response, neighbourhood and Force CID officers as he learns more about the different departments.
He said: "I absolutely love being a Special and I’m so glad I joined, all the staff have been really helpful.
"It’s great I get to study at university while also spending time in policing... and even doing a part-time job too. Everyone has been so supportive so I can do this and it has only reinforced my view I want to join West Midlands Police full-time in the future."
Sophie Hopgood is another one of the new university recruits with the 19-year-old having spent her first weeks with neighbourhood teams across Birmingham.
She said: "I’ve gained a real insight into what policing is all about, and being able to give something back to the community.
"It’s very rewarding and I feel confident I’ve been trained with the skills I need for the role.
"If you’ve got a passion for policing it definitely helps and I would recommend being a Special to anyone."
The force is now in the process of recruiting new students for a second group.
Natalie Butler, the force’s citizens in policing co-ordinator, said: "Specials play a crucial role in policing and are a much valued part of the force.
"We’re always looking for recruits and we felt working with the university was a great way of encouraging people with an interest in policing to join.
"They get to sample life in the force without impacting on their other responsibilities. We’re grateful to the support of the university and will be looking if we can to replicate this elsewhere in future."
Jonathan Jackson, course director for professional policing at Birmingham City University, added: "Our working partnership with West Midlands Police has been instrumental in bringing contemporary policing into the classroom.
"This unique opportunity helps to ensure that our students develop the skills and qualities needed to support them with their future careers."
Specials have the same powers as regular officers and wear the same uniform. They volunteer at least 16 hours a month but times are flexible.