Hi. My name is Anna Merrell; I am a special constable with Cumbria Constabulary and I have just finished my BSc Professional Policing Degree at the University of Cumbria.
I did not always think about policing as a career. When I was at school, I was interested in primary school teaching and undertook my work experience at a local primary school. As I continued into sixth form, I became interested in sociopathy, psychopathy, major crime and the reasons why some people commit crime and some do not. For this reason, I decided to undertake AS Level Psychology and A Levels in English Literature, Music and Law.
I began to consider policing as a career as it involved investigating different crimes, working alongside many people and I liked the idea of working a varied shift pattern. In 2017, after attending recruitment events at my local police station, I decided to go to university to study policing. At that point, it had been established that policing was to become a degree-entry profession in 2020 and I was advised that university would provide me with more knowledge and experience prior to applying. I have always lived in a small town in South Cumbria and therefore choosing to live and study in Carlisle provided a good balance between a local community area and a larger city.
I further chose to study at the University of Cumbria due to the subject of policing being delivered by lecturers who have had either a career in the police service itself or a job role with criminal justice involvement. Combined with small class sizes, this knowledge allows for learning to be more direct and personal.
In my second year, I was given the opportunity to apply as a special constable and undertake a full-time, voluntary placement with Cumbria Constabulary. Since finishing my placement, I have continued to volunteer and deploy operationally alongside regular police officers. Policing has taught me various new skills and I have experienced confrontation and been involved in incidents that I otherwise may not have encountered. For anyone who is unsure whether policing is for them, I would recommend volunteering as it provides a great insight into the job and you can learn and develop your knowledge at the same time.
Being a special constable is rewarding. As you have the same powers as regular police officers, you can engage with members of your community, assist with operational incidents and gain valuable experience in what can sometimes be a challenging environment. My degree has supported me in my role as a special constable as I have developed existing skills such as communication and research and expanded my knowledge in legislation, all of which can be transferred into an operational policing environment. I hope to progress into the role of a police officer and use the knowledge I have learnt from my operational policing experience and BSc degree to allow me to undertake a MSc degree in a policing/criminology related subject.
Recently, Cumbria Constabulary awarded me with ‘Special Constable of the Year 2019/2020.’ I feel very honoured to have been nominated and chosen to receive this award.
Since becoming a special constable, I have so far volunteered over 1200 hours and I am appreciative that my time has been recognised by the Constabulary. Over the past year and a half, I have assisted in dealing with a variety of incidents; some of which have included road traffic collisions, assaults and public order offences. Being able to apply the knowledge I learnt at university to ‘real-life’ circumstances and incidents was beneficial to me and to anyone currently considering applying to become a special constable, I would recommend taking the opportunity.
Depending on where you wish to ultimately apply as a police officer, there are now different entry routes available. If you want to get the ‘university experience,’ studying a pre-join degree with the University of Cumbria will not be a disappointment. You can also apply to the police service as an apprentice or a degree-holder. The skills you learn whilst undertaking a policing degree are transferrable and the knowledge could be applied to various other professions such as the civil service, security, emergency services and the armed forces. Studying a degree in Professional Policing is interesting, enjoyable and worthwhile!