E-mails and notices were sent around Poole’s Corfe House, on Pitwines Close, in a bid to recruit students onto an unpaid volunteer communications role.
Police Sergeant David Parr, of Poole police, said selected candidates would review crimes and incidents and then produce a brief summary to distribute to the public through messaging systems such as Twitter and Facebook with “some training available”.
He said: “As the role develops, there may also be the potential to deal with various requests sent through to my officers and so free up their time.”
The targeted premises is home to mainly undergraduate students aged 18 to 19 years old.
Weymouth Councillor Rachel Rogers, who ran as the Labour candidate for Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner last year, said she was very concerned by the recruitment of student volunteers.
She said: “Dorset Police appear to be trying to recruit very young volunteers to take on responsibility for promoting the force’s image online. I am particularly concerned by the scant reference to training.”
“I am sure that the volunteers will already be aware of the advantages of using social media and the techniques associated with the practice, but there is the issue of the force’s public profile to consider and the attendance impact on reputation and public confidence.”
But The Breaker spoke to a student living in the targeted accommodation who said he would be interested in volunteering.
Ben Hartley, 23, of Eastbourne, said: “I would consider volunteering for the police because I’d planned to be a police officer, but it’s impractical for a student like me because due to personal finances we can’t really afford to do such a time intensive role for no money.”
Most students were not interested in volunteering. Katie Lymn, 25, of Leicester, said: “I wouldn’t volunteer because I think they are trivialising an important job that should have a salary to reflect its importance. I also think I’d have no benefit from it for myself and I worry it’s open to malicious intent.”
Mrs Rogers said: “I am concerned that volunteer posts like this are effectively a way of coping with Government cuts by exploiting free labour all dressed up as “work experience” and the Big Society.”
Special Constables must work unpaid for a minimum of 16 hours per month and were a major part of Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill’s plans to increase police presence across the county.
Dorset Police declined to be interviewed.
Main image from Google Maps.