Applying an outcomes-based categorisation to non-warranted/non-sworn volunteers in United States policing

Date01 March 2020
AuthorRoss Wolf,Thomas Bryer
Published date01 March 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Applying an outcomes-
based categorisation to
volunteers in United States
Ross Wolf
Department of Criminal Justice, University of Central Florida, Florida,
Thomas Bryer
School of Public Administration, University of Central Florida, Florida,
USA; Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities, Kaunas University
of Technology, Kaunas, Lithuania
The use of volunteers for government service can improve civic engagement, colla-
boration in governance, and transparency. Policing is no exception, and throughout the
United States many police agencies rely on volunteers to serve in various ways, including
observational patrols, investigations, administrative support, chaplains, police explorer
programmes, and search and rescue teams. While there are police volunteers in the
United States that have police powers, this manuscript focuses on the varied ways that
citizens participate in policing in non-warranted/non-sworn roles, and applies an
outcomes-based categorisation to better understand motivations. Examples of volun-
teerism are provided, and the variation of use is discussed.
Volunteer, policing, citizen participation, voluntary organisations
Corresponding author:
Ross Wolf, University of Central Florida, PO Box 162200, Orlando, Florida 32816-2368, USA.
The Police Journal:
Theory, Practice and Principles
2020, Vol. 93(1) 42–64
ªThe Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0032258X19837309
Police throughout the world are tasked with complex responsibilities. While the role of
the police may include law enforcement, policing organisations are responsible for
much more, including code and ordinance enforcement, keeping the peace, community
outreach, disaster response and order maintenance. Police agencies often respond
reactively to criminal activity, but also need to be nimble organisations that can both
combat crime before it occurs and maximise their relationship within local commu-
nities (Ranasinge, 2017).
Policing in many countries can trace historical roots to the British model of policing
and the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829. This Act emphasised the preventive role of
policing, and structured the police with a military-like rank structure within communities
so that they were accessible to citizens and distributed them according to time of day and
the location being policed (Wolf and Borland Jones, 2018). The role of the modern
volunteer special constable was created shortly after the Metropolitan Police Act by
An Act for amending the Laws relative to the Appointment of Special Constables, or the
Special Constables Act of 1831. This Act permitted the selection of volunteer police
officers at times of unrest and authorised them with full powers of arrest. Modern special
constables still have full powers of arrest, and are used to supplement the 43 police forces
in England and Wales, as well as the Scottish Police and the British Transport Police.
Because the majority of police are not armed in England and Wales, special constables
are also not armed. However, they are vested with the same warranted powers as full-
time police, including the authority and power to make arrests. Special constables have
also been, more recently, used to assist in special investigations such as cybercrime, and
several forces in the UK have created Cyber Special Constables and Cyber Volunteers
(CSCV). While Cyber Special Constables have police powers, CSCVs are volunteer
investigators who assist in case investigation without the need to have warranted powers.
There are other public-facing roles in UK policing that do not have police powers. For
example, the UK has paid police community support officer (PCSO) roles, police
employees who wear a uniform similar to those of the police, but with limited authority.
The use of uniformed volunteers in other roles in the UK has been limited (Wolf and
Borland Jones, 2018).
Policing volunteers can also be found in Singapore, Australia, Canada, Malaysia,
Hong Kong, the Caribbean, the United States and many other locations with a British
influence, each having developed along their own lines. Recognition has developed in
these countries that the purpose, role, and function of policing is characterised by an
ever-growing variety of government and non-government providers, including volun-
teers. Police have developed partnerships to reduce crime and engage with an ‘extended
policing family’ to strengthen local accountability and promote community connections.
These partnerships may include police officers, volunteers with police powers, commer-
cial security patrols and other types of volunteers (Crawford and Lister, 2004: viii).
Local governments on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean have recognised the immense
value that volunteers can provide, expanding the ability of agencies to be effective in
meeting public demands for services. In policing, volunteers are used to stretch budgets,
to increase the level of service to communities, and may also be an important positive
Wolf and Bryer 43

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