There was a really heart-warming e-mail waiting for me at work on Monday which I am proud to share with you. It came from an eye-witness to a foiled shoplifting in Cheltenham the day before.

The incident he described could have ended when the thief ran from the store clutching the goods for which he hadn’t paid, leaving the stressed store manager in his wake.

Instead, my correspondent wrote, a young man who was also in the store with his partner and young children, told his family to wait and took off in pursuit. Not only did he manage to catch the would-be felon, he waited until on-duty police officers arrived to hand him over.

The phrase ‘on-duty’ is particularly relevant in this story because ‘the chaser’ was actually an off-duty Special Constable. And although my correspondent mistakenly thought he must be a full time police officer, his sentiments are no less pertinent as follows: “It would have been easy for him just to ignore and carry on with his own family business and yet he didn’t”.

He stepped forward and made it apparent that as a police officer you are never off duty; but working to keep us safe in Gloucestershire; whatever the situation. As a Constabulary you obviously are recruiting individuals who are prepared to go above and beyond. [He} reminded me how much officers really care”.

The subject of this story is one of 34 Special Constables who took part in a Passing-out Parade at the weekend. It is a ceremony which recognises the successful completion of the initial phase of their learning and development.

The latest intake of Special Constables at their Passing-Out Parade

Quite aside from their commitment to helping to make Gloucestershire a safer place, they are a talented group. This year’s intake includes a college lecturer, an analyst, a finance company administrator, software developer and engineer, expert in Digital Cyber Forensics, IT consultant, electrical engineer, security systems designer and someone who runs his own business.

I have never understood why anyone who gives up their free time to serve their community should be subject to abuse. And yet members of the Special Constabulary have been unfairly ridiculed over the years.

Today, they are a vital component of the Constabulary as a whole, providing added value through the extra skills they bring from their day jobs. That they volunteer for nothing is proof of their commitment and dedication.