Volunteers are set to receive "police-style" powers in a bid to boost the fight against cyber crime, the Government has announced.
Under the new measures, which will form part of the Policing and Crime Bill, chief officers will be able to designate volunteers with powers, which will not include powers to arrest or detain.
What this essentially means is the police force will now be able to lean on members of the public who have expertise in IT and cyber technology to fight online crime.
Home Secretary Theresa May said: "Police officers across the country carry out a wide range of duties, keeping the public safe and ensuring justice for the most vulnerable members of society. We value the essential role they play, but they cannot do this on their own.
"We want to help forces to create a more flexible workforce, bring in new skills and free up officers’ time to focus on the jobs only they can carry out.
"At the same time, we want to encourage those with skills in particular demand, such as those with specialist IT or accountancy skills, to work alongside police officers to investigate cyber or financial crime, and help officers and staff fight crime more widely.
"This Government is committed to finishing the job of police reform and the upcoming Policing and Crime Bill will help to do just that."
UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis labelled the plans as a "big mistake."
Speaking to PoliceProfessional.Com he said while "we want to encourage those with skills in particular demand, such as those with specialist IT or accountancy skills, to work alongside police officers to investigate cyber or financial crime," the move to bulk up the volunteer force was simply another way to plug "the huge gap left" left by budget cuts.