A controversial police force says it is having to appeal to volunteers to wash its patrols cars and help find stolen property because it is so short of cash.
Cambridgeshire Police this week advertised for two volunteer positions on the force’s website as part of their latest money-saving bid.
It is seeking a ‘Vehicle Tasking Volunteer’ and a ‘Property Recovery Volunteer.’
The volunteers will expected to work four hours a week and although they will not be paid, they will ‘gain valuable skills and enhance their CV’.
The Property Recovery Volunteer advert reads: “To provide an enhanced capability for local officers to locate and recover stolen property, you will routinely visit local car boot sales, antique dealers and various pawn shops to attempt to locate stolen items.
“This will reunite victims with their missing items, increase forensic opportunities and provide valuable intelligence to the Constabulary.”
The Vehicle Taking Volunteer advert reads: “We are asking for volunteers to keep our vehicles ready for action by performing weekly safety checks, maintaining essential equipment and keeping our cars looking professional.”
Campaigners have hit out at the force, saying volunteers shouldn’t be doing the jobs of detectives.
Cambridge resident and campaigner on policing, Richard Taylor, said: “The role of the ‘property recovery volunteer’ sounds to me like a core part of the job of a detective investigating a burglary.
“I don’t think burglary investigations ought be carried out by volunteers.”
However Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, supported the move and said more forces should be looking at ways like this to save money.
He said: “It’s a bit of a stretch to say trawling websites and car boot sales is full-on detective work, so it’s good news that the force is seeking help without costing taxpayers’ more money.
“If civic-minded people are willing to give up their time to help the police carry out their work then that’s a good thing and it should be encouraged, so long as there is a line between volunteers and roles that require training or are dangerous.”
A Cambridgeshire Police spokeswoman said: “Volunteers are a vital part of the force particularly as we continue to face financial challenges
“All volunteers are vetted in the same way a paid member of staff is, however the difference is that it is not mandatory for our volunteers to have experience in the field they work for us.
“We provide them with all the necessary training, support and development for the to gain valuable skills and enhance their CV.”
Interviews for both roles will be held in the week commencing December 14 and the closing date for applications is December 9.
The Cambridgeshire force has had to make a 14% cut in its budget over the last five years, saving #13.3m in the last two years.
It currently employs a total of 1,343 officers and 150 PCSOs.
Today (1/12) the crime commissioner for neighbouring Essex admitted that there was unlikely to be a visible rural police force in the county due to extensive budget cuts.