Police forces seek volunteer digital investigators

29 Jan 2016, 4:34 pm

Hampshire and Gloucestershire Police Constabularies have launched a volunteer recruitment scheme to expand police skills in combating and preventing cyber crime, which could form the basis of a national programme for forces in England and Wales.

iStock_Henrik-Jonsson-_CyberSpyThe two forces will jointly run the Cyber Special Constable and Cyber Volunteer Programme pilot for the next six to twelve months, recruiting 10 special constables and 10 police volunteers.

“They will become our tactical advisors; people to teach us the skills we need,” said Tom Haye, Hampshire Constabulary’s chief special constable.

“In a murder scene, we have specially trained advisors, but in cyber crime we don’t have that. In a denial of service (DOS) attack, a normal policeman wouldn’t know where to start. You still have that golden hour at the start that’s no different to other emergencies”.

Cyber special constables will volunteer 16 hours a month to advise on live digital investigations, analyse phones or computers for evidence and provide advice to digital investigators, for example. Meanwhile, cyber volunteers can offer any amount of time. According to Haye, 21 people signed up on first day of the scheme.


“It’s not about savings,” he said. “It’s about not being able to afford people [with specialist cyber security skills] in the first place. The people we’re trying to attract are on six-figure sum salaries, so we’re going back to the community policing ethos.

“The concept of special constables started by getting people to police their own community. This is no different. We’re using the IT community to support us in expanding police skills and the ability to support, pursue and protect people in cyberspace.”

The forces are looking out for volunteers with experience in specialist roles, such as penetration testers (‘ethical hackers’) who work for IT firms, specialist programmers and steganographers (experts in the practice of concealing data within other non-secret data).

Younger recruits

Haye, who also runs a systems integration company specialising in security and defence, said he was also keen to recruit younger people through local universities and social media and that interest in the scheme had already come from someone as young as 14.

As part of the initiative, a full time project manager will be recruited to manage and support volunteer cyber crime support staff, supported partly by funding of £1.2 million made available by Hampshire’s police commissioner Simon Hayes.

The initiative has the backing of the Home Office, which has been working on a project to provide capability for the National Crime Agency for special constables specialising in cyber security.

“They heard about our project, and rather than have two separate projects, we joined up,” said Haye, who previously helped British Transport Police build in-house capacity to support a high tech crime and cyber unit by using special constables.