'˜When he handed it to me it was a live grenade'
Every week hundreds of volunteers give up their time to help keep the streets of Hertfordshire safe and free of crime.
Whether they are patrolling the streets, providing back-up at major events, tackling speeding drivers and underage drinkers, or working behind the scenes, volunteers play a vital work in our county’s police work.
We spoke to one of those dedicated people this week – Acting Special Sergeant Alex Whittle, who has been a special police officer for six years.
He told the Gazette: “I had family who were in the police when I was child, and I wanted to be an officer even then.
“I suppose that in those days I imagined it as all chasing criminals and putting baddies away. But as I got older and finished college I had this free time and I still wanted to be a police officer.
“I’m proud of my community and wanted to give something back.”
Acting Special Sergeant Whittle, who lives in Kings Langley and grew up in Tring, first joined the force as a teenager at a time that the force was not recruiting.
His working life took him in a different direction and his 9-5 job now takes him to central London each week as a civil servant.
But his passion for policing has not abated – and the difference between his two jobs could not be more marked.
He said: “In London, I work the same hours, doing more or less the same thing every day. But then I come into the police station and it’s like putting a different head on.
“No two shifts are the same, and you never know what’s going to happen. That’s what keeps me coming back for more.”
One example Acting Special Sergeant Whittle gives is of a recent case where he was called by a man who had found the outer casing of a grenade.
Only it was not the casing, it was an actual grenade. Which happened to be live.
“He just picked it up and handed it to me,” remembered Acting Special Sergeant Whittle.
“I placed it very gently on the floor, and we stepped back quite far.
“Then we called the Army explosives experts who cordoned the area off before carrying out a controlled explosion.”
Over the last year special constables across the county have made over 328 arrests and assisted in a further 822.
They have also dealt with 125 road traffic collisions, taken part in 89 alcohol seizures, made 143 drug seizures, and seized 105 vehicles.
One specific case involved Special Sergeant Mike Moore, an ICT software consultant by day whose technical skills and abilities helped Herts Police identify that a convicted sex offender was re-offending.
A 63-year-old man had thousands of images of child sex abuse on his computer, featuring children as young as six or seven being abused.
Special Sergeant Moore also assisted in the interview of the offender which led to his arrest and charge.
The man was eventually jailed for five- and-a-half-years.
> Hertfordshire Police are looking to recruit new special constables and rural special constables from all areas across the county.
All special constables have full police powers, uniform and protective equipment and work alongside the regular force. As volunteers, Special Constables are not paid but expenses are reimbursed.
Visit www.hertspolicecareers.co.uk and click on ‘apply online’ or browse the pages to find out more.