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Police horses charging at demonstrators a standout moment for retired Cambridgeshire Special constable

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Twenty-two years ago landscape gardener Rob Cattell became a Special to give something back to his community and test himself outside his comfort zone.

And now, having hung up his uniform up for the last time, Rob, 59, can look back and know he’s done just that.

We spoke to Rob as part of this year’s Volunteers’ Week, which began on Wednesday , and also marks the opening of a recruitment window for Special constables in Cambridgeshire.

Rob Cattell receiving a long-service award from the Chief Constable Nick Dean. (57084093)
Rob Cattell receiving a long-service award from the Chief Constable Nick Dean. (57084093)

The dad-of-three said one of the standout moments in his volunteer policing career was having police horses charging past him at demonstrators during an English Defence League (EDL) protest while on a mutual aid operation in Luton.

“I remember policing the EDL protests in Peterborough and Luton and that one was quite hairy with police horses charging through our lines at the demonstrators,” he said.

“I was just in normal uniform standing at a cordon, escorting people and stopping people from passing and the Anti-Nazi League were coming up the road towards us.”

Rob said he was with other Specials alongside regular officers and didn’t fear things would get out of control because they were trained in what to do.

Police horses were used to disperse the demonstrators successfully and there was no trouble, although it was the first protest Rob had policed where there was a potential for violence.

“The EDL were outnumbered but there was potential for violence if the two had met,” he added.

“It was an interesting day.”

Rob, who is from Peterborough, began his career as a Special in March 2000, working out of the old police stations at Bretton and Werrington.

After starting his career as a landscape gardener, he has gone on to volunteer alongside working in insurance and is currently working in safeguarding at Cambridgeshire County Council.

He said being a Special had also helped with this regular career.

“I joined as a Special because I wanted to help and give something back to the community. I wanted to do something about issues and the Specials gave me that opportunity and I feel I’ve achieved a lot, both personally and professionally from it.

“It’s certainly given me a lot of transferable skills, such as dealing with difficult people and difficult situations, as well as leadership, first aid and also some roads policing training.

“As a Special you get to do a lot of different things and Cambridgeshire has embraced Specials and given them lots of opportunities.”

Rob said it was a difficult decision to retire but ultimately the right one.

“It was one of those things – should I or shouldn’t I, but you know in your bones when it’s time to go and I think I have achieved everything I wanted to.”

Asked whether he would recommend being a Special to others, Rob said:

“I would say it’s for you if you’re interested in getting out of your comfort zone, learning new things and helping. It’s a very good opportunity to do all of that.

“I think a lot of people will get a lot out of the Specials and it could lead into a career as a regular – it’s a good way of testing the water.

“The professionalism and support that we got was really good from all levels.”

To learn more about becoming and Special and to apply, visit our website.

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