Laura Empey honoured for her work on the recruitment of special constables

Laura Empey from the National Policing Improvement Agency has won our Division of Occupational Psychology’s Practitioner of the Year award for her work designing and implementing a new recruitment process for special constables. The award was presented at the Division’s annual awards ceremony in London on Thursday 6 October.

Before the introduction of this new process, all 43 police forces  in England and Wales had separate processes for selecting special constables. Laura designed a new selection process, consisting of an application form, situational judgement test, written exercise and competency-based structured interview, along with it supporting training materials. She was also responsible for rolling out the new process across forces and for the subsequent maintenance and evaluation.

The remit was particularly challenging because the methodology had to rigorous, yet flexible enough to be delivered out of standard working hours to reflect the challenges of special constable recruitment.

Since the launch of Laura’s process in April 2010 over 4200 applicants have been assessed over 30 forces. This has been delivered through the delivery of 165 separate assessment events by those forces, and 40 assessor training courses and 25 courses for assessment centre quality assurance staff have also been held.

So far over 3000 special constables have been selected through the new process and the diversity of the special constabulary has also markedly increased over this period, with more than 1300 female special constables and more than 300 special constables being recruited under the new process. The feedback from forces suggests that the quality of recruits has also risen.

Laura Empey says:

"I feel honoured to receive this award from the Division of Occcupational Psychology especially in such a strong field of nominees. I would like to thank Charles Eyre for his nomination and the teams at Examinations and Assessment and Workforce Strategy Unit, NPIA, for their support on this project.

"The special constabulary provide an extremely valuable link between the police and local community and I feel priviledged to have worked alongside them and forces to design and implement the national specials recruitment process. I believe this project has shown how applying Occupational Psychology can contribute to the professionalisation of the special constabulary and help to achieve national consistency in recruitment."

Ciaran McGuigan, head of exams and assessment at the Agency says:

"The work of Laura and the wider Specials team has been crucial in standardising and professionalising the way that special constables are recruited. The new system has benefitted forces by ensuring candidates are rigorously but fairly tested and only those who meet the national standards are appointed to the special constabulary to support their regular colleagues to keep order and protect their communities.

"We are delighted that the success of this project to date has been recognised by the British         Psychological Society, and wish Laura many congratulations on receiving this award."