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Fedster

Force which axed PCSOs hires civilians to guard crime scenes

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Fedster

Norfolk says a review shows this duty can be performed without a policing warrant.

Force which axed PCSOs hires civilians to guard crime scenes

 

Date - 8th February 2019
By - Martin Buhagiar - Police Oracle
6 Comments6 Comments}

 

A police force which axed its PCSOs is hiring civilians on zero hours contracts to guard crime scenes.

Norfolk Constabulary said the new "scene guards", reportedly to be paid around £10 an hour, would help at "certain low risk" crime scenes.

The force, which got rid of all 150 of its police community support officers (PCSOs) last year, said the scene guards would free up officer time.

Guarding crime scenes forms part of a PCSO's role.

A force spokesman said the money saved by axing PCSOs would allow the force to replace them with "a virtually identical amount of police officers" in the next year.

"Following significant reinvestment in frontline police officers, the pilot of a scene guard role was introduced to free up officer time for more complex inquiries and investigations," the force said in a statement. "In some cases it may even remove the need for overtime.

"Following the pilot, the constabulary will conduct a thorough evaluation and only progress the civilian scene guards initiative further if there is an evidence base to demonstrate the proposal is effective."

The force said a review had shown that "this particular duty could be performed without a policing warrant, leaving police officers to deal with greater threats to the community.

"Scene guards will have zero hours contracts and, when required, will assist at police cordons at certain low risk crime or incident scenes which need to have a visible policepresence on a 24/7 basis while investigations are completed," the statement continued.

"Duties could include preserving the integrity of the crime/incident scene, running a scene log, detailing everyone entering/leaving the scene and dealing with initial enquiries from members of the public and media."

It said the move was part of the force's "bold plans to radically change our policing model" which would improve its service "and at the same time have the flexibility to tackle the more invisible, but incredibly harmful, crimes that cause long term damage to society".

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis criticised the plans for civilians on zero hours contracts to guard crime scenes, writing on Twitter: "The gig economy reaches our police forces.

"This sounds like a really, really, really bad idea for so many reasons..."

Andy Symonds, chairman of the Norfolk Police Federation, told the Eastern Daily Press he would be "concerned" if the role of scene guard was broadened in future

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obsidian_eclipse

Although it does happen, using PCSOs to guard crime scenes is never ideal and fell outside the ethos of the role. In a monetary sense there was no difference between using a PCSO or a warranted officer.

I'm not sure why this article is being used as an argument as to why PCSOs are good in these circumstances and scene guards aren't. It seems to have a rather blatant agenda behind it, however it falls somewhat flat.

If, as a force I had the money to spend on either PCSOs or warranted officers I would choose to have warranted officers. If I were to be given money from the government to be ringfenced to budget PCSOs then yes, I'd be foolish to not accept the help and contribution the role makes. However. Would I want to keep paying for a limited role when this is later withdrawn? Especially if I can employ more warranted officers as a result in a flexible manner.

I don't agree with zero hours call out scene guards. Part of me feels by the time it is arranged for someone to come, the scene will either be over or after deductions, liabilities and retention fees from the guard provider it will cost a lot more than £10 an hour. It wouldn't surprise me if there was a value 10x that in yearly fees as they aim to make a profit afterall.

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Buck

What precisely can these folks do to protect the scene?

Guard: "You can't go through there"

MoP: "What power have you go to stop me?"

Guard: "Errr..."

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Reasonable Man

The mentioning of PCSOs, or lack of, is completely pointless to this story.
Even if they could say all scenes were guarded solely by PCSOs previously unless they had 150 PCSOs on scene guard all the time there is no comparison or relevance.
150 PCSOs gone equals about £5M saved - that’s a whole lot of £10 an hour scene guards, as and when.

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BlueBob

Seems like a way of giving options.  Whether they are used as additional feet to accompany uniform at a scene or it`s decided that the scene can be left to them on their own are options.  Why not.  May even find a few ex-job have set up a business providing those zero hour staff.

 

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Cathedral Bobby

Well given the shortage of resources it is hard to argue why a force might do this. I would rather resources are used to keep officers on the streets than tied up at crime scenes, although I would hope that this is risk assessed and where necessary for major scenes the option for deploying officers is available.

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Radman
7 hours ago, Reasonable Man said:

The mentioning of PCSOs, or lack of, is completely pointless to this story.
Even if they could say all scenes were guarded solely by PCSOs previously unless they had 150 PCSOs on scene guard all the time there is no comparison or relevance.
150 PCSOs gone equals about £5M saved - that’s a whole lot of £10 an hour scene guards, as and when.

My local force spends £8 million a year on PCSOs that effectively haven't been given many powers to do much at all. 

I'd sooner a pool of suitably trained security officers (ideally ex police) be made available to carry out scene guard if the overall saved money is allocated out to employing more warranted cops. I'm sure if the public took a step back and thought about it they too would agree... I do feel the HO has been somewhat disingenuous with the public over the years at just how useful their PCSOs are, they are deliberately politically clipped, consigned to limited duties with very little in the way of effective powers they can actually utilise. 

You either decide to use PCSOs effectively or you might aswell get rid of them especially if you're paying them £25k a year plus pension contributions for what amounts to a community warden... There is little realistic difference between a Council Warden and a PCSO bar the added benefit of carrying a police radio for the vast majority of HO forces. 

Edited by Radman
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Zulu 22
11 minutes ago, Radman said:

My local force spends £8 million a year on PCSOs that effectively haven't been given many powers to rto use PCSOs effectively or you might aswell get rid of them especially if you're paying them £25k a year plus pension contributions for what amounts to a community warden... There is little realistic difference between a Council Warden and a PCSO bar the added benefit of carrying a police radio for the vast majority of HO forces. 

I would rather have them abolish PCSO's and replace them with warranted officers. As for civilian guards, it would not be workable as they would have no real authority. A scenario I was involved in necessitated me refusing access to  crime scene to a detective Superintendent who was unfit through drink and I backed the PC who he had tried to pressure. He went away with his tail between his legs when he was asked if he would like me to summon higher help. It is the fault of different governments who have put the Police in the situation they find themselves. They are beginning to reap what they have sown.

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Cathedral Bobby
9 minutes ago, Zulu 22 said:
27 minutes ago, Radman said:

My local force spends £8 million a year on PCSOs that effectively haven't been given many powers to rto use PCSOs effectively or you might aswell get rid of them especially if you're paying them £25k a year plus pension contributions for what amounts to a community warden... There is little realistic difference between a Council Warden and a PCSO bar the added benefit of carrying a police radio for the vast majority of HO forces. 

I would rather have them abolish PCSO's and replace them with warranted officers. As for civilian guards, it would not be workable as they would have no real authority. A scenario I was involved in necessitated me refusing access to  crime scene to a detective Superintendent who was unfit through drink and I backed the PC who he had tried to pressure. He went away with his tail between his legs when he was asked if he would like me to summon higher help. It is the fault of different governments who have put the Police in the situation they find themselves. They are beginning to reap what they have sown.

Twice in a week we are nearly in agreement Zulu22. I think given there is resistance to meaningfully expand the powers of a PCSO, I think the money would be better spent paying for a 0.5 FTE police officer, with the remaining couple of thousand kept in the pot to pay for securing crime scenes etc. 

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SD

So what powers do police have these guards wouldn’t? 

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obsidian_eclipse

I would hazard like us, S19 pace backed up by s117 criminal law act for the power to use force. There's probably some common law there too.

 

Obviously we don't hand out batons or cs to security staff so it would be brute force, however that's something we only afforded PCSOs with too. I would assume that they would be given police radios or at the very least a lone worker emergency button.

 

 

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SD

Where does it say they’ll be seizing stuff? They’re just scene guards?

 

 

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obsidian_eclipse

It may be a bit of mental gymnastics however a scene is preserved in order to allow us to seize evidence in order to prevent it bring tampered with or destroyed. Whilst the scene is enacted then a seizure is in place, albeit there isn't anyone there undertaking the process of seizing items or evidence at that time.

Someone doesn't have to be engaged in a particular task in order to support another undertaking a lawful task. One analogy would be an officer restraining a person whilst another searches them.

I would assume that a security guard in these circumstances, under the direction of the police would be able to use force in order to prevent interference with the officers powers in relation s19. Such would be an obstruction of a police officer undertaking his/her duty.

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SD
20 minutes ago, obsidian_eclipse said:

It may be a bit of mental gymnastics however a scene is preserved in order to allow us to seize evidence in order to prevent it bring tampered with or destroyed. Whilst the scene is enacted then a seizure is in place, albeit there isn't anyone there undertaking the process of seizing items or evidence at that time.

Someone doesn't have to be engaged in a particular task in order to support another undertaking a lawful task. One analogy would be an officer restraining a person whilst another searches them.

I would assume that a security guard in these circumstances, under the direction of the police would be able to use force in order to prevent interference with the officers powers in relation s19. Such would be an obstruction of a police officer undertaking his/her duty.

I think you’re stretching things a bit to s19 to fit. A scene is to allow police to search it IF found then we move in to seizure. Not to mention your logic falls down when it’s a street cordoned off as s19 refers to premises. In short there’s no specific legislation that deals with scene preservation though there are a few bits of caselaw linked to other offences. Hence the question posed.

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