Britain’s longest-serving police officer has finally retired after pounding the beat for nearly 50 years – without being paid a PENNY.
Dedicated George Cook, 65, has been a volunteer Special Constable with Essex Police since 1963 and never earned a salary.
The community stalwart has racked up around 50,000 free working hours over the last 47 years – the equivalent of 1,000 hours a year or 20 hours a week.
He stepped down this week after becoming the longest-serving fully warranted police officer in the UK.
Special Constables are volunteer police officers who have full police powers, including the power of arrest.
Today George, from Southend, Essex, said he is happy to have given up his time for free and insisted: ”Money isn’t everything”.
And he called on the Government to cut police paperwork and allow more bobbies out on the beat.
”Money isn’t the only driving force in life,” he said. ”I wanted to be a policeman since I was four years old.
”Both my brothers were police officers but when I applied in 1963 I didn’t pass the eye test.
”I became a Special hoping they would take me on as a regular but when the time came I didn’t want to leave.
”We’ve done some research and I’m not aware of anyone, not even a regular officer, who has served as long as I have.”
George has juggled his police work with full-time jobs as a manager at P&O Ferries, assistant director of a merchant bank, and manager of an elderly charity.
The lifelong bachelor has also found time to date several girlfriends alongside caring for his infirm mother.
George founded and was elected the first national chair of the Association of Special Constabulary Chief Officers in 2008.
He was awarded an MBE in 2004 for services to Police Service and Charity.
“We can’t police society on our own”
George said: ”Our role is to protect life and property. The public, rightly so, is far more aware of its rights and is reporting far more crime.
”What has changed is a huge increase in the number of laws and regulations. All the agencies and the Government need to do something to reduce bureaucracy, not just talk about it.
”It has a big impact on the number of officers we can put on the street.
”Once you nick someone, you’ve got to bring them in and then there’s a plethora of paperwork to be completed.
”I always say to all the new recruits: ‘We will give you the best training and equipment, but your best weapon is your tongue. Treat people with respect, courtesy and dignity’.
”I was brought up to respect people and to have discipline.
”Ninety-five per cent of young people are as good as gold. They are lovely. Young people are struggling in the economic climate, but they are no more high-spirited than I was.
”We all have a bit of fight in us, growing up, but if parents, teachers and coppers get it right, it can be controlled.
”You’ve got to have some fun and you’ve got to make people laugh.
”You have to inject some humour into things. We lead stressful lives these days, and youngsters are under such pressure – pressure in school, pressure to smoke and pressure to take drugs or drink alcohol.
”Sometimes you can take the sting out of a situation by having some fun.
”You can’t engage with the public unless you talk to them – and you can’t do that from a car.
”You need to walk and talk. That way, you gain people’s respect and then eventually, they will tell you their issues. It’s at the heart of community policing.
”We can’t police society on our own. We need the help of the media, teachers, social workers, the butcher, the baker and the rest.
”Society is very complex and we have different problems now to 20 years ago.”
There are around 15,000 Special Constables in the UK and have existed in law since 1831.