Community policing has collapsed across most of the UK. In London most officers commute in from outside the areas they police. In 2011 the blanket bans on recruiting security and medical professionals, youth and care workers and military reservists as Special Constables were removed in order to enable 10,000 to be recruited for the Olympics. Many forces, including London, have yet to implement the changes. The number of Special Constables in London is down 75% since 2012. Across the rest of the UK policy varies. Some forces are up. Others are down. The time has come to learn from what works, where and why.
The full-time police will never have the numbers and expertise to handle the variety of local community needs, let alone the national plagues of drug and Internet related crime and abuse (both commonly compounded by mental health issues). They need to draw on the expertise (both individual and corporate) of geographic and on-line communities under proper governance.
Some roles require warranted volunteers, Special Constables. Others do not. The frameworks for both already exist. They need to be used.
But volunteers are not “free”. They need training and organisation to support full-time officers with community contact and specialist knowledge. That means priorities and budgets, national, regional and local - because every community is different. Immediate on-line training would enable new volunteers to better assist during the COVID-19 emergency.