22 Sep 2007

What do community support officers do?

Now I (like PC Bloggs), was going to do a piece about the GMP Pond incident where the small boy died and the PCSO's got a hammering in the media but I will refrain. Apart that is to say; my thoughts go out to all those who have been touched by the boy's death and my condolences go to his family.
Like PC Bloggs, I wasn't there so can't comment on the details of the incident however, what this has done though is once again bring home the confusion the public have about the role and responsibility of the PCSO.
The BBC have rightly asked what exactly is the role of a community support officer and what training and responsibilities do they have? A good question... And, it's the same question that every police officer, every member of the public and indeed, and I expect most of the PCSO service would like an answer to as well!
Today there are something like 16,000 community support officers patrolling our streets but usually only during the day. They are supposed to be easily identifiable but, in many areas, the uniform they wear is so similar to that of a fully sworn police officer, it is almost impossible to tell them apart. They are intended to deter criminals and reassure communities by their high-visibility presence? The law abiding citizens think they are police officers and the crooks think they are a joke and confusion reigns supreme!
In December this year they are supposed to be getting standardised powers and a nationally accredited training package but PCSOs will subsequently require more training at a greater cost. The Home Office originally said it did not want PCSOs, to be a "paler shade of police officer".
Paul Kelly, chairman of the Police Federation in Manchester, said that PCSOs were incapable of dealing with emergencies. “The public are being fooled,” he said. He continued by saying; "We are sending people out there who are dressed as police officers". And concluded; “We should do away with PCSOs because they are a failed experiment. In Greater Manchester we have taken on up to 400 PCSOs in the past 18 months but in the same period have reduced the number of police officers by more than 200. We should be investing in more police officers.”
Alf says: The original concept may have had some good points but the whole PCSO issue has, mainly for financial reasons, become so skewed it is now untenable. The reality is that the PCSO has just been used to con the public into thinking there are more police officers on the streets. Providing policing on the cheap! And now in many areas, fully sworn officers are not being recruited. Do we want 'proper' police officers to provide police services in our communities or, are we happy with a cheap copy? I think we all know what the answer is?

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