A special constable who has spent three decades keeping the streets of Colchester safe has said a fond farewell to the force.

Joe Eardley, 71, joined Essex Police in January 1988 and became a familiar face patrolling Colchester town centre on Friday and Saturday nights.

Joe, who combined his police work with a full-time job as a prototype engineer, said he’d "enjoyed every bit" of being a special constable.

He worked with roads policing and as part of the Safer Colchester project team before joining the Colchester Community Policing Team 11 years ago, rising to the rank of Section Officer.

He received a Chief Constable’s Commendation for his part in policing a disturbance at a Colchester v Exeter football match in 1995, and ran the Remembrance Sunday ceremonial guard of honour in Colchester for 20 years.

Over the past decade, Joe said he had given an average 473 hours of his time per year to help keep Colchester residents safe and earned the nickname Batman for his partnership with Rob ‘Robin’ Alvarez.

Reflecting on his time with the force, Joe said: “I’ve learnt so many amazing things being in the police, like first aid and police driving. There were so many different aspects that made the job interesting.

“I’ll miss the people. I’ve met an awful lot of interesting characters along the way both inside the police station and outside.

“The highlight was when I picked to represent Essex Police at the Remembrance Day parade in 2008 in London. It was a big, two-day event and I really enjoyed that.”

Colleagues pay tribute to retiring Special Constable Joe Eardley

Colleagues pay tribute to retiring Special Constable Joe Eardley

Joe said the ability to listen to people and to learn from regular officers was key to being a good Special and he’d recommend the Special Constabulary to anyone considering joining the police.

Joe said his long career with Essex Police wouldn’t have been possible without the support of his wife, Noella, and daughters Laura and Jolene.

“They’ve always been there to support me and cheer me on," he added.

"A lot of it comes down to family life and my wife and daughters were happy for me to do this. I think they enjoyed it just as much as I did.”

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Colleagues held a socially-distanced ceremony at Colchester Police Station to mark Joe’s exceptional service.

Special Inspector Mark Barham, from the Colchester Community Policing Team said: “Joe has been on my team on Colchester CPT and I know I can speak for both Special Constabulary and regular officers, when I say it has been a real pleasure to serve and work with Joe.

"He is a very highly thought-of team member who will be missed everyone.

“If ever I needed any help or support, Joe has always been there. It has been a real honour and privilege to work with Joe and I have made a lifelong friend.”