Research Activities

Practitioner Fellowships

Special Constable Recruitment and Training

    • Fellowship Practitioner Sergeant Andrew Wilson (Police Scotland)
    • Fellowship Sponsor Superintendent Chris Stones (Police Scotland)
    • Academic Researcher Dr Andrew Wooff (Edinburgh Napier University)

About the Practitioner: 

I am a Police Sergeant currently based in Operational Training Development within Training Leadership and Development at the Scottish Police College. One of my projects in this role is overseeing a Training Needs Analysis for the role of a Special Constable, with the stated aim of aligning the training of a Special Constable with that of a regular Constable, providing recognition of prior learning for Special Constables transitioning to a regular,

I have a MA(Hons) from the University of Dundee (2004) and a postgraduate MA in Social Policy and Criminology from the Open University (2010). My Masters dissertation was a Critical Discourse Analysis of Police Protestor Relationships at Faslane 365.

Research Context:

The context of this Practitioner Fellowship is to examine the recruitment of serving Special Constables as regular officers in Police Scotland. Currently, Special Constables who apply to become regular officers have to follow the recruitment and training path alongside applicants without prior experience.

Proposals are currently being developed which would allow Special Constables to have their service recognised with either a reduced initial Probationer Training Course or not attend the initial Probationer Training Course.

It has been argued that the current process is inefficient; Special Constables are able to demonstrate a track record of policing skills that is not recognised or accredited if they join transition to full-time employment. Double training them is inefficient and potentially harmful, leading to disengagement.

The counter argument is there isn’t effective governance over a special constable’s performance to enable an accurate assessment of ability to transition to regular officer and little structured opportunity for Special Constables to pursue continuous professional development after initial training to enhance policing skills. This argument is supported by an abortive attempt to provide a Special Constables conversion course. The provision of this course will be included in the research as part of a general review of the current position of Special Constable training and recruitment.

For Police Officers who have left and subsequently re-joined the police a bespoke training package is put in place that recognises their previous skills and experience so there is a model and precedent in place that could be leveraged for Special Constables.

The objective of this research project is to close the knowledge gaps in relation to Special Constables transitioning to full time roles by developing an evidence base of operational competence and exploring the current requirement to re-train these officers.


Planned Activities and Outputs


The research will commence with a literature review to provide greater understanding of the training and deployment of Special Constables across the UK including the transfer from Special to Regular. Included in the literature review will be a general review of current Special Constable training and recruitment.

The aim of the research project will be:

To evaluate the current training provision for Special Constables transitioning to full time Constables and examine ways to improve this process

The research questions which will be explored are

  • To examine and evaluate the current training provision to assess its efficiency
  • To evaluate the performance of Special Constables after they transition against a non-special recruit
  • To evaluate the potential impact of any changes to the training provision.


The research methodology will be to follow a cohort of Special Constables during their training to become regular Police Officers. Police Scotland currently recruit approximately 200 officers quarterly, with approximately 10% being Special Constables. They will be surveyed at key milestones during their first year of training,

To provide a comparative position, a similar number of recruits with a non-police background will also be surveyed. Focus groups will be used to provide more detailed information from the survey responses.

A number of interviews will be conducted with key stakeholders, Operational Commanders, Training Staff and Tutor Constables to provide a detailed perspective.

An ethical challenge to this research is ensuring the independence of the research. The hierarchical nature of the Police and the researcher rank may restrict or colour this discussion. To alleviate this, all surveys will be anonymous, focus group attendees will be assured of confidentiality and attendees will be asked not to wear police uniform.

The specific outputs of this research will be

  • Develop evidential base for Special Constable training and recruitment
  • Improve efficiency of Special Constable training and recruitment
  • Present findings and recommendations to TLD Management Team
  • Publication within a peer reviewed journal