I think that I am in a majority when I say that there are still too few Police Officers on the streets of England and Wales to do the job expected of us in safety and with efficiency. There are a number of solutions to this problem, but Avon and Somerset Chief Constable, Nick Gargan, is being reportedly asked to consider one of the most controversial changes to the structure of Policing since the introduction of PCSO’s more than a decade ago. That question is whether he should give his authority for PCSOs in the county the power to arrest offenders alongside their Officer colleagues.
The question has apparently been asked by Avon and Somerset PCC Sue Mountstevens and is one that would give some cause for concern about the degree to which the line separating PCSO and PC should be blurred. Whilst this power has been in existence since 2007, it has only (to my knowledge) been utilised within the British Transport Police.
Alongside this decision there would also have to be a review of the equipment provided and routinely carried by PCSOs. A power of arrest without the appropriate PPE would certainly be a recipe for disaster. So what is the solution – hand-cuffs, incapacitant spray and batons for all….?
Predictably, and with some degree of justification, the Police Federation has voiced its concerns over these proposed changes.
I am a firm advocate of the PCSO role in its current format. These officers have the time and skills to do work that wouldn’t get done properly – if at all, if it were added to the workload of officers on response teams. Their work may not always as glamorous and high profile as the blaze-of-glory stories of Policing recounted by those who have earned the right under the ‘rules of blah’. But it is often the work which has a more lasting effect. They are the anti-biotic that underpins (and normally outlasts) the sticking plasters dished out by the response team.
In my opinion, the minute Police forces start giving the powers of a Police Officer to their PCSO’s they will find themselves filling the gaps that currently exist in the demands placed on the response teams. I have already seen an increased reliance on the Special Constabulary and increased recruiting to their ranks while PC recruiting remains almost non-existent. The closer a PCSO gets to performing the role of a Police Officer, the more they will be treated as such, and the more they will find themselves abstracted from their primary role. There is a real potential for that two tier Policing, that those in power denied would ever exist when the PCSO role was created, to become a reality.
Courtesy of Minimum Cover