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Radman

PCSO's - The Roles Lack of Development Over the Years.

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Radman

I work with some fantastic PCSOs, they know their powers, have full support from supervision and are more than happy to get stuck in to whatever comes their way be it statement taking, CCTV duties, detentions, contemporaneous interviews, arrest escorts etc.

Great guys the bunch of them and I'm lucky that I work for a force that supports them in their role as much as BTP does, however the other day we had two local PCSOs pop in for a brew, we chatted and they asked the usual "How's BTP" "What do you get up to" kind of questions, conversation moved on to how they find the role and to be fair it's the same old complaints that I've heard over ten years ago when I first started my policing career... Which had got me wondering where is the PCSO role going to go now? Will there be any major reforms and will more forces start to utilise their officers better?

Thought I'd try and inject some life into it.

Edited by Radman

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Cathedral Bobby

I have been impressed by many and not quite as much of a few. I am one for increasing their powers, for example, constable powers to deal with shop theft, minor public order etc when on patrol. Many earn more than student officers, we also have specials, so perhaps a development for the more committed would be, with safeguards, give them enhanced powers.

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hallin89

The PCSO role needs to develop, and the Policing and Crime Bill of 2016 which is currently going through Parliament is attempting to do this.

Even though when we were first developed as Non Confrontational Officers that attended Community events and Schools, doing our bit of crime prevention this has gradually changed over the years where as Front Line Beat Officers you can turn a corner and never know what you might be getting into.

I appreciate that we don't have to get involved in conflict, but with a uniform displaying the words Police on the front and back the general public expect you to do something.  

With Police Officers numbers being cut we very clearly need additional protection on the street.

Very recently a Unison survey was completed asking whether PCSO's wanted additional Personal Protective equipment which came back as over 60 per cent

Yes members were in favour of change, where CS gas was mentioned.  I feel it is better to have these tools and never use them in your career, then to be put into  a situation where you could potentially get injured ,and verbal commands just won't suffice. I have been in situations  that have the potential to turn and Police Officers are tied up with other jobs and so the waiting time can be 15  or more minutes. 

Another thing that I recently found out is that PCSO's have Section 32 (1) power to search a person for DIE ( dangerous items, Implements for escape and evidence ) this would kick in for failure to give Name and address under Section 50 of Police Reform Act 2002 

So this power is saying you could search someone who is potentially carrying items that could injure yourself or member of public and  at the same time not have anything but verbal commands and a pair of hands to stop them.  Why have this power in the first place if we  are Non confronational ?  It doesn't make sense. 

Edited by Rocket
Cut and pasted post that did not format properly so edited to make some sense

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Growley

Another thing that I recently found out is that PCSO's have Section 32 (1) power to search a person for DIE ( dangerous items, Implements for escape and evidence ) this would kick in for failure to give Name and address under Section 50 of Police Reform Act 2002 
So this power is saying you could search someone who is potentially carrying items that could injure yourself or member of public and  at the same time not have anything but verbal commands and a pair of hands to stop them.  Why have this power in the first place if we  are Non confronational ?  It doesn't make sense. 

S.32 PACE is for searching someone already under arrest. In this case they should already be under the control of a police officer.

Additionally, I've had another look at the section (albeit a quick one) and I'm struggling to find anything saying a PCSO can perform the search. Am I missing something?

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Growley
I have been impressed by many and not quite as much of a few. I am one for increasing their powers, for example, constable powers to deal with shop theft, minor public order etc when on patrol. Many earn more than student officers, we also have specials, so perhaps a development for the more committed would be, with safeguards, give them enhanced powers.

I've swayed either side of the argument over the past few years, but if we start deciding they need constable powers, then we should just bin the role and have more constables.

As it is the role is largely a complete waste of money. If you need more cops on the beat, then put them there.
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Cathedral Bobby

Growley in a perfect world I would agree, but we are were we are. On a personal professional job security argument and delivering the highest possible standard of policing we wouldn't have PCSO's or specials, albeit the latter predated the creation of the modern police service so hard to argue they should be dispensed with. Perhaps the argument should now develop into should we have different grades of constables, similar to other nations. For example many countries have municipal officers, normally employed by local authorities who deal with routine day to day minor offences and crime such as theft, criminal damage, and traffic management but do not carry out investigations or deal with serious incidents or crime. They have limited powers of arrest and can provide public reassurance and when needed support to what we might consider more traditional police functions.Their training tends to be less comprehensive and opportunity for advancement less.

With the onset of the policing degree coming this would provide an alternative route into policing. We currently have a multitier policing system in the UK with various organisations and agencies dealing with different functions. What I would prefer to see, under a single organisation (the police), is the various styles of PCSOs, local authority antisocial behaviour wardens, traffic wardens etc given additional training and limited powers of arrest, PSE and utilised as many (buy not all) specials are; providing high visibility routine foot patrols and community reassurance. Any resources currently provided to the local authorities/other organisations should be transferred to the police. This would create a two tier police service, but it would be a single service with a single command structure. This would leave the highly trained officers to deal with more serious incidents and specialism, reduce duplication and waist and, better utilise PCSOs and the like. So when PCSOs are faced with unruly drunken louts or mouthy chavs they can lock them up for Sec 4, 4a or 5 of the Public Order Act, D&D, BoP, write their own statement and submit the file. Similar for shop theft etc. The clock isn't going to be turned back with regard to policing, the best we can hope for is having structures which meet the public need. They wouldn't be plastic bobbies but would be seen and used as high profile, low tariff officers. If we can live with the notion of part-time unpaid volunteers with constable powers (specials are an important part of the police service and its traditions) we can surely look at having a different structure within the paid service.

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Growley
26 minutes ago, Cathedral Bobby said:

Growley in a perfect world I would agree, but we are were we are. On a personal professional job security argument and delivering the highest possible standard of policing we wouldn't have PCSO's or specials, albeit the latter predated the creation of the modern police service so hard to argue they should be dispensed with. Perhaps the argument should now develop into should we have different grades of constables, similar to other nations. For example many countries have municipal officers, normally employed by local authorities who deal with routine day to day minor offences and crime such as theft, criminal damage, and traffic management but do not carry out investigations or deal with serious incidents or crime. They have limited powers of arrest and can provide public reassurance and when needed support to what we might consider more traditional police functions.Their training tends to be less comprehensive and opportunity for advancement less.

With the onset of the policing degree coming this would provide an alternative route into policing. We currently have a multitier policing system in the UK with various organisations and agencies dealing with different functions. What I would prefer to see, under a single organisation (the police), is the various styles of PCSOs, local authority antisocial behaviour wardens, traffic wardens etc given additional training and limited powers of arrest, PSE and utilised as many (buy not all) specials are; providing high visibility routine foot patrols and community reassurance. Any resources currently provided to the local authorities/other organisations should be transferred to the police. This would create a two tier police service, but it would be a single service with a single command structure. This would leave the highly trained officers to deal with more serious incidents and specialism, reduce duplication and waist and, better utilise PCSOs and the like. So when PCSOs are faced with unruly drunken louts or mouthy chavs they can lock them up for Sec 4, 4a or 5 of the Public Order Act, D&D, BoP, write their own statement and submit the file. Similar for shop theft etc. The clock isn't going to be turned back with regard to policing, the best we can hope for is having structures which meet the public need. They wouldn't be plastic bobbies but would be seen and used as high profile, low tariff officers. If we can live with the notion of part-time unpaid volunteers with constable powers (specials are an important part of the police service and its traditions) we can surely look at having a different structure within the paid service.

I appreciate your view, I just disagree. Currently we're paying PCSOs (and other equally banded civilian roles) upwards of £30k a year in the Met to do a fraction of what PCs are expected to do at a moment's notice. I appreciate people need to be able to live, and that ultimately means that a decent salary is needed, but if we're going to be shelling out a decent salary either way, we are far better paying more and having a fully competent Police officer, rather than somebody with a lesser role. Having more PCSOs and the like doesn't move towards fixing single crewing issues, issues with equipment or other officer safety problems; it just tries to trick the public into thinking the Police are present more than they actually are. We need better equipment and more officers. Saying things along the line of 'this is the climate we're in' doesn't cut it in my opinion.

If we need an empowered and specialised enforcement of low level byelaw and public order offences, then I don't see the harm in council wardens being equipped for that purpose, with a low level and clearly specified remit. I don't think the Police should be paying for that.

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Cathedral Bobby

When it comes to salaries I accept that if you're paying someone nearly as much as a PC then there is no need. But in many forces a PCSO salary is capped at around £23,000 around more than a third less than a PC on the top of their grade. There are also many routine jobs which cops deal with which is an efficient of their time and could be done by less skilled/trained individuals but by people within the service supervised and directed by the police command structure. I would much prefer having a lower level of officer, trained and properly equipped to deal with antisocial behaviour, than a local authority warden who ends up calling the police anyway. If that means PCSOs are sent to a job regarding antisocial behaviour and identify offences as I previously outlined because they have the powers to do so, then let them use them and be effective. If specials can do it, then why not them. The 'P' in their title would actually mean something - Police.

Where I totally agree with you Growley is if a job does need a fully trained competent police officer, the public should expect to receive that service and we should have sufficient cops to satisfy that need. But I do not believe every job done by a constable (basic shop theft, low level public order) is sacrosanct and requires a cop with the full range of powers, skills, experience and qualifications. I am sure that if local yobs knew their PCSO could lock them up for their behaviour they would be less inclined to push their luck. We all know plodding the beat is very effective when it comes to public reassurance but isn't particularly effective when a quick response is needed. I love plodding, and many colleagues say the same, only to whinge like hell if told to so.

I also frequently see PCSOs being driven in vehicles, either as second crew or occasionally in larger numbers. For me this defeats the object of high profile, high visibility community reassurance the role they were developed for. Like the specials (something I did ) PCSO are a good source for recruiting PCs. If we get rid of PCSOs perhaps we should have different levels of constables. Level 1 dealing with basic policing mainly high visibility foot patrol dealing with low level crime and offences, level 2 constables for response and specialists - the bulk of officers, level 3 senior practitioners for dealing with the most serious and complex situations and providing guidance and advice not relating to supervisory matters. Just a thought.

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Growley

The funny thing about 'antisocial behaviour' is that more often than not it involves crime of some description. It's only binned off as ASB because it's an easy way for the job to get calls off their books.

And with youths these days, no, knowing a PCSO could lock them up wouldn't mean much. They run their mouth and kick off all the same with PCs.


Sent from my iPhone using Police Community

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hallin89

In reply to Growley, who asked whether PCSO's can utilise Section 32, the answer to this is that it is a discretionary power that only certain Constabularies use.  The wording is as follows - 

Power to search detained persons for dangerous items or items that could be used to assist escape: Enables PCSOs to be designated with the same powers as a constable under section 32 of PACE to search detained persons for anything that could be used to cause physical injury or to assist escape. A PCSO must comply with a police officer’s instructions on what to do with the item. Paragraph 2A of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002 (inserted by paragraph 4 of Schedule 8 to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005)

So yes PCSO's do have a search power apart from the one for cigarettes and alcohol. This is fraught with danger on Section 32 without additional PPE, so isn't it about time we had that additional protection, other countries give their support staff the necessary tools to do the job properly. What you have to remember is that as much as it's stated PCSO's are non confrontational it's very clearly not the case, we are the eyes and ears of the Police and are taking risks every day relying on our verbal commands to get us out of situations, one day it might not be enough and it's better to have the tools to hand than an injured party.

 

 

 

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hallin89

As previously quoted we are not going back to the days of just Police officers pounding the beat , society has changed and so has 21st Century policing.  Other countries utilize staff for different grades of offences and never have an issue to give them the tools to get the job done. I do feel that in this country we are missing something, which all may change with the final part of Police Reform in 2017 .  With cuts to police officers there is a greater need for them to be used in investigating serious crime, the need for minor shoplifting, cannabis warnings, ASB could all be dealt with elsewhere.

 

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sc117

I think PCSO's need more powers (within reason) as it is better to have more powers and not need them than to need them and not have them. I just think we need to be more careful about abstracting them from the role that they were created to do as a visible police presence is too important to lose.  I am for giving PCSO's some forms of PPE (incapacitant spray and cuffs) as they do engage with the public very regularly and could potentially be targeted. One of the main problems I see is how each force uses PCSO's in different ways. There needs to be a national guideline that should be strictly followed rather than let some forces underused PCSO's and others over use them.

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hallin89

This National Guideline is being looked  into through the Policing and Crime Bill which is currently going through Parliament.  I am sure the PCSO role will develop with changes on the horizon. It is already currently in British law for PCSO's to have  incapacitant spray, cuffs and a baton if needed but this hasn't been used by any Chief Constable as of yet. There are currently three Constabulary's that allow their PCSO's to use cuffs that being British Transport Police and North Wales Police and one other. 

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ParochialYokal
I appreciate your view, I just disagree. Currently we're paying PCSOs (and other equally banded civilian roles) upwards of £30k a year in the Met to do a fraction of what PCs are expected to do at a moment's notice. I appreciate people need to be able to live, and that ultimately means that a decent salary is needed, but if we're going to be shelling out a decent salary either way, we are far better paying more and having a fully competent Police officer, rather than somebody with a lesser role.

I agree that PCSOs in the MET do not provide good value. But that is because they are not trained and deployed in a manner where they could be more effective.

MET PCSOs typically look a mess, seem to attract 'traffic warden' calibre candidates and they often appear to be wandering around without purpose. That model contrasts significantly with some other forces that use PCSO differently and better.

As an aside, a salary makes up just one component of the cost of a member of a workforce. A PC would typically have more on-costs due to pension, training and supervision overheads.

Sent from my iPhone usring Police Community

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bensonby

If you increased powers and responsibilities though wouldn't it be right and proper to correspondingly increase pay? I wouldn't carry that kind of risk for what PCSOs are currently paid. There would also be an increase in training costs. 

 

Which then beggars the question: why not just employ more constables?

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