Policing Witham means Derek Hopkins is never really off duty.

The dedicated police officer is celebrating 40 years of walking the streets of Essex.

And it means the 67-year-old can even bump into people he has arrested down the chippy.

Luckily for him most people he has nicked understand why.

Derek first joined the county's police force back in 1980 and is now a key part of the special constabulary in his role a deputy chief officer.

Derek signed up to become a voluntary cop after he broke his wrist while playing for his football team in Silver End.

He had decided to train his weaker writing-hand by filling out coupons and applications at the back of newspapers and before long, he was approached by Essex Police.

"I had someone turn up really quickly and they went through the process with me,” he said.

“Before you know it, I had trained and attested and started my special journey."

Derek had always had a passion for cars and wanted to be a traffic officer but was initially told he was too short.

He had started working in garages for Jaguar and Rover before he moved to Silver End in 1975 and joined the the water section with then Essex Fire Brigade.

His role was to make sure fire engines had another water supply.

After signing up as a social constable, Derek's first ever job saw him look after a high profile comedian who was visiting Hatfield Peverel.

Throughout this 40 years of service, he has been ever present at Witham carnivals and tasked with managing numerous crime scenes.

He admits he has been on the beat so long, he has become a friendly face to many residents around the Witham area.

"I’m a police officer 24/7 and I have been for many, many years – so much so that I think people are starting to recognise my face." he said.

“Earlier this year I popped into a fish and chip shop in Witham and saw two men in there that I pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt. They were understanding and supportive.

“I don’t believe in barriers.

"I might be a lot older than I was when I first started, however, I still feel physically and mentally fit and I’m still making a difference."

Derek became a deputy chief officer in the special constabulary in 2017 and bosses say he is highly thought of in the department.

Son Ben and step-daughter Natalie have both followed in his footsteps and signed up to become voluntary officers.

Derek remains committed to the specials scheme and insists

He added: “I’ve been a big advocate for improving the special constable experience and since then there have been some really great changes.”

"Special constables can do anything right now.

“They are volunteering in all areas including our operational support group, dogs unit, marine unit, drones team, roads policing team and within community and local policing teams.

"They’ve even helped our detective based departments.

“The opportunities are endless – it’s a fantastic time to join."

To find out more about the special constabulary, visit essex.police.uk/specials.