Sunday, 11 October 2009

PCSO's Don't Work



PCSO's: a cost effective resource?

I have been involved in Neighbourhood Policing for many years and welcomed the first tranche of Police Community Support Officer’s (PCSO’s) who were introduced to the Utopian Police Force in 2003. We had recently introduced beat officers into every area in the county. They were spread a bit thin and PCSO’s were welcomed by most as an additional resource to help us gain intelligence, provide a uniform presence and deal with low level anti social behaviour and problems in the community.

Even then PCSO’s had their critics and they were seen by some as policing on the cheap. They were ridiculed for their lack of powers and it was suggested that the public were being conned when they saw uniforms patrolling the streets with limited training and effect.

Like police officers, some of the PCSO’s proved to be very good, others not so. The good ones got stuck into their communities and became well known. They came up with diversionary activities for young people and kept Neighbourhood Watch, Residents Associations and Councillors happy by giving them time and providing a conduit for information. They gathered intelligence and were a font of knowledge regarding their communities.

Over the last 6 years I have seen things change. We still have two types of PCSO in Utopia. We have the younger recruit who is using the role to have a look at the police with a view to joining as an officer. Their commitment to Neighbourhoods is limited. If they want to join the police all they want to do is jump in cars and respond to 999 calls. The majority are not really interested in getting involved in communities.

The second type are the older PCSO recruit, some of whom are an interesting bunch and vary from housewives returning to the workplace after having a family to people with all sorts of experience who may have been made redundant or just fancied a change of career. Disillusionment has set in among many of these. There is no career structure for PCSO’s. Pounding the beat on your feet in all weathers for year after year starts to lose its appeal. Even the best of our PCSO’s are struggling with motivation and the best managers are struggling to get value for money from them.

The media has made a lot of a small number of incidents where PCSO’s have apparently failed to act. I don’t place much store in any of that. We have all heard the story of the two PCSO’s who allegedly watched someone drown. The truth is they arrived ten minutes after the victim had disappeared in the water. There was nothing they could do. The fact is the public and, of course, offenders are wise to the limited powers and capabilities of our PCSO’s. The police cannot help them every time some yob is lippy or abusive to them. The public are becoming disillusioned with this role. They still regard it as better than nothing but want real police officers with powers and who use them.

I was a fan of PCSO’s; now I feel we need to review the role and its place in our police force. Should we try and make the role more interesting and support other areas of the business by giving PCSO’s additional tasks to do, for example, taking witness statements and viewing/seizing CCTV?

In April 2010 the Home Office subsidy on PCSO funding comes to an end and the whole cost will be borne by the Police Authorities. I now believe that is the time to reduce the number of PCSO’s and use those savings to increase the number of police officers in Neighbourhoods.

30 comments:

  1. Why not recruit the "good" PCSOs as regular officers and make the role redundant?

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  2. Some forces already use PCSO like you suggest. Surrey for examples have PSO's. Who take statements, drive prisoner tranpsort vans etc.....

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  3. Thanks for the educational post--I need to read more about PCSOs.

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  4. 3 PCSOs cost approximately 2 Police Officers. The equipment is similar. They just don't get 'points to prove' training nor the laughable attmept at Officer Safety Training that sworn officers get.

    Other than that the difference is simply that officers have a duty PCSOs don't!

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  5. I have a lot of respect for most PCSO's I have worked with but, I also have a lot of sympathy for them. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Their creation was a poor attempt at hoodwinking the public. 'Lets get more uniforms on the street' said the Home Office, all the time thinking of ways they could do this with as little financial outlay as possible. The PCSO is the result- generally very community oriented folk with little bang for the buck they cost.

    Neighbourhood Policing is a great concept that has been fubared by Home Office interference, imposing too many ‘good ideas’ that gets the Civil Servant responsible for the idea their next promotion and overwhelms the poor Neighbourhood Team with more bean counting. Let’s get back to the old way of Neighbourhood Policing, where you have a Beat officer who works his beat instead of trying to supervise a team of PCSO's.

    We should also do away with the ‘Police’ element of PCSO. They are Community Support Officers. Seeing ‘Police’ emblazoned across their uniform a) misleads the public and b) gets the poor CSO far more grief than they deserve.

    Yes, I am a disillusioned Police Officer. I am an ex Neighbourhood Specialist Officer who quit that role in disgust at the crap we were expected to put up with. I loved working a beat and would have done it till retirement. NSO garbage killed the job as far as I’m concerned.

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  6. It's a good start

    Here is a full list of courts being considered for closure under plans announced by the Ministry of Justice:

    Bourne Magistrates' Court

    Bridport Magistrates' Court

    Cheshunt Magistrates' Court

    Cullompton Magistrates' Court

    Dorking Magistrates' Court

    Eastleigh Magistrates' Court

    Gainsborough Magistrates' Court

    Havant Magistrates' Court

    Launceston Magistrates' Court

    Leigh County Court

    Louth Magistrates' Court

    Mildenhall Magistrates' Court

    Minehead Magistrates' Court

    Sherborne Magistrates' Court

    Sleaford Magistrates' Court

    Stamford Magistrates' Court

    Wantage Magistrates' Court

    Wareham Magistrates' Court

    Wells Magistrates' Court

    Whitby Magistrates' Court

    Widnes Magistrates' Court

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  7. Community Policing... Ughhh! In America it's a totally con (and I am Canadian so I suspect there too, though I haven;t been back in a while).

    Never forget this experience: I was invited to a squad ride along in Raleigh, NC. The ride-along was scheduled! I showed up at the sub-station only to find the place shut tight as a drum (lights off). Rang the bell... pounded on the door... nothing. I'm curious so I wonder around back of the building... only to find 4 squad cars and 1/2 dozen officers smoking cigs next to a dumpster.

    There are signs all over Raleigh directing citizens to this sub-station: imagine if it was a real emergency.

    PS: I LOVE this site and will blog about it:

    John Allore
    www.theresaallore.com

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  8. And here's more post on this very good piece:

    http://theresaallore.com/2009/10/thinking-policeman-uk-failure-of-community-policing/

    John A
    www.theresaallore.com

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  9. Duty Sergeant, I am aware that Surrey use Police Support Officers on response to take statements, transport prisoners, house to house, scene guard etc. They have taken away police officers and replaced them with a cheaper version with limited capabilities.
    This leaves the remaining police officers overstretched and unable to take breaks etc. There are also small but significant problems of police officers losing skills such as statement taking and communicating.
    There are also issues with the PSO's. They are bored with their limited role and becoming more and more demotivated. There has been a lot of talk about extending their powers to include allowing them to stop vehicles and issue tickets for seat belt and mobile phone offences. This has been discounted for now but watch this space!
    The PSO's in numbers are very small compared to the PCSO's working in Neighbourhoods.

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  10. Do you think us lot are as productive as we could be?

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  11. Aah yes, another mystery set by bigots for tiny minds. That PCSO's are recruited from inferior material and will always remain inferior material is based upon what, exactly?

    The assumption of a public having the unrequited desire for more laughing policemen of the ineffective Gadget variety, must be the concept of a laughing policeman of the ineffective Gadget variety.

    MTG

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  12. Give it another few years, and the public will view "P"CSOs with the same warmth and respect that traffic wardens currently enjoy.

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  13. "Aah yes, another mystert set by bigots for tiny minds. That PCSO's are recruited from inferior material and will always remain inferior material is based upon what, exactly?"

    Largely that 99% of the PCSOs that I know applied to be Cops but didn't (quite) make the grade. They were told that they could be PCSOs instead.

    In fairness this is pretty good training as they get used to talking to people and finding out information. However this trianing is not the stated purpose and i'm not sure if it is the most cost effective method.

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  14. Re: "I was a fan of PCSO’s; now I feel we need to review the role and its place in our police force".

    I was never actually a fan of PCSO's but I was always a fan of the well motivated people who stepped forward to become one. I believe that the wrong job was provided for them and furthermore the expectations and what they were expected to achieve were cloaked in so many mirrors and so much smoke that the whole package, as presented, was doomed to failure.

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  15. PCSO's have a role to play but the only problem is that they do not want to do the job that they were employed to do. Sir Ian Blair brought them in as the eyes & ears of the police and to prevent crime and reassure the public. That is it, for £22,000+. If they want to be in a car, race around and respond to incidents then the system will fall down. If they want to hide in schools all day, then once again the system falls down. Let's get them out doing the job they were employed to do....walk, talk, listen, observe and be seen in the community.

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  16. Ahhh well. If we take the NHS as an analogy, Health Care Assistants now do the jobs of Nurses, with the exception of giving out medicines. That role developed and is continually being developed.
    The PCSO's role has stagnated, due to Gov't(no surprise there), but also the Police Service, ACPO, Unions and the Fed,for not pushing this.

    You don't here of HCA's being called 'Plastic Nurses' or the fore-mentioned 'Nursing on the Cheap'. Why is it that we accept it for PCSO's.
    Actually, shame on those that voice these views, it's quite pathetic.

    For me,I want to go out within the NPT with a PCSO. I enjoy watching peoples faces when I give them a PND when they make a comment about a 'civilian' worker, which funnily enough the civilian worker takes offence at. Robustly dealt with springs to mind.

    How do HCA's get out of bed? It must be hard as they have no means of promotion except to apply for Nursing. Hmmm sounds familiar.
    I don't except the arguement about demotivation, that is an issue with the person that the Supervision need to address. Maybe it's because as Police they have never had to deal with this behaviour. In which case is this not a supervision failing as well?
    CPS appt waiting so I must dash, but yes to PCSO's, yes for role development, no to promotions/career structure except to apply for roles.

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  17. PCSO's do not have to make an oath.

    They are being used to undermine the Lawful duty of Police Constables. They apparently are even starting to be issued with warrant cards for possible future use in times of emergency.

    Think 1930's Germany and you're not far wrong.

    To all Police Officers - Soon you will have to start making a choice between upholding the Law and Enforcing Statutes. The two are on a collision course. Legal is not always Lawful. Think about what you are being asked/ordered to do.

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  18. I am a PCSO on a SNT. I spend 80% of my day on the street, single patrolling, engaging with the community and doing all the stuff that I am expected to do including visiting schools (not hiding in them)!!
    I have been in the job for 2 years and yes, it is hard to stay motivated, constantly battling against public and professional opinion of our role, trying to do the right thing when everyone thinks you are a joke.
    I find the majority of police officers actually change their opinion of PCSO's once they have worked with one, the ill informed perceptions all to obvious when they ask ' So what do you actually do then?". It can be a busy and varied role, the problem is no one in charge actually gives it any structure so its left to the individual to fill their day.
    For the record the Met were not recruiting PC's when I decided that I needed a career change (from a successful career) but I read about the position of PCSO and on paper it seemed to be exactly the responsible, meaningful and fufilling yob that I was after. ON PAPER!! I have since passed the PC recruitment stage (first time) so you cannot group me in as a failed wanna be and I feel that my PCSO experience will help me become a very good police officer.
    My turn to moan and something that should be considered when pointing fingers at PCSO's. As I said I spend 80% of my day on patrol. The PC's on my team spend about 10%. If they do patrol they will only do so in a car. They refuse to come to public meetings because they think they are a joke, they don't engage with the community unless they REALLY have to and they spend most of the time that they are in the office reading newspapers, surfing the internet and playing quizzes that they have made up themselves. We get called policing on the cheap but at least we are out there!

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  19. If you are out for 80% of the time I congratulate you.One of the reasons you can do this and a PC cannot do this is due to the amount of paper filling that is required. A PCSO can issue a PND for S(5)POA, dropping litter etc and a Stop & account sheet. That's about it, the rest of the time is out and about meeting & greeting and submitting intelligence. So there is no point in comparing roles because if a PC is out and about for 80% of their time then they are not doing their job right!

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  20. I haven't read all of the above posts but share a number of opinions in the ones I have looked at. I have never commented or even been on this site, but at a time when I feel that the Government are threatening my livelyhood I feel I must speak up......I have been a PCSO for 6 years now and spent over 10 years as a Special. Please do not therefore think that I'm a failed recruit for the Regulars as this is not the case, I have never applied and have been given opportunities. Instead I gained experience in other careers and worked sociable hours but still gained a huge amount of experience in the Police on a voluntary basis. I knew that becoming a PCSO would be difficult, like smacking your head against a brick wall at times, but I was lucky enough that I was still working with some of the same officers and they knew I could do more than just walk around all day telling people it's not in my job description. I enjoy community liaison and felt that this could be a great job and I could continue supporting regular officers. During these last 6 years I have met a number of Regulars however who would say that it is not in their job description! They may not like PCSO's but they don't like their jobs either. There are good and bad in all jobs and the Government have decided on our role not us. Many of us are very capable of alot more and were simply given a job to do with very little direction. Instead of telling us we are useless, why not allow us to do more. Get more value for your money instead of throwing us to one side as a failed experiment. We are human beings, the ones out on the street, free from abstractions (apparently) let us promote the Police. Without us would the public see anyone when other officers are forced to update websites and constantly put up posters? Instead of wasting money on these items, keep us in and get everyone out there doing a job!

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  21. I have been in this role for just over a year now and I can honestly say that I see both why they should keep this role and why they shouldn't. I do not like being biased about this issue even if it is my role.

    I have met amazing PCSO's that do more than they are meant to and i have met many that make me wonder how they even made it past recruitment phase. The fact is that there are some boxes that need to be ticked in every job and because of that there are many pcso’s who probably put a bad name to the ones that are actually really good. I am all for equal opportunities but there are times when people should be doing a specific role because they are good at it and not because of a box that needs ticking.

    Anyways, the problem here is like many say, people know that we do not have powers and that will never change therefor the respect will never be there like PC's get it. It is a shame because there are some good PCSO's that do great jobs for the community. It is sad that the newspapers only show the bad stuff and never the good stuff. We get to read internal news of the good things some SNT's have done at work nearly every day but funny how those never make the paper not even once. If the public don’t see those things then where will the respect or the justification in our job ever be there?

    I personally would love to be a PC just like most of the team who sadly had their applications terminated cause of this whole budget cut thing but there are many who actually love this role and want to keep doing it. So i feel bad for them and obviously I fear this whole redundancy talk because I really enjoy what I do and when I joined I always had in my mind to go far and to make a difference in people’s lives rather than fill shelves or sign papers in an office etc… I actually love being out there helping people and going back home knowing I made a difference no matter how small that difference is.

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  22. you are a complete knob

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  23. Your sister likes knobs

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  24. This is a nice information shared here. Thanks for sharing this job.

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  25. two of my colleagues pcso stayed in the ofice during the london riots. they done so for over a month as the skipper was away on a/l. there were no PCs on my team at that time,so i ended up going out alone. furthere more,not only were my pcsos playing games on their i-pads,but they sent me to coventry because i didn't joined them. sad sad knobs,i wish the met brought out a system that monitor the prodactivity of pcso,such as visibility proof,not imaginary stop and accounts or imaginary crimints.

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  26. I have been a PCSO for a little over 2 years now and I will admit that I am finding the role to be extremely frustrating. I wanted to be a PC however my force closed recruitment before I had chance to put my application in and the PCSO role seemed like a reasonable option to gain some experience and to some degree it has worked. I have now found myself getting told off for shouting up to incidents I shouldn't be due to my role being non confrontational. I am a young lad in his 20's with a high level of physical fitness and a pretty good grasp of the law albeit not through training and sometimes it does become demoralising when you are treated like a child because incidents are too dangerous or you are not trained to deal with something that in all fairness doesn't require a great deal of mental aptitude to sort out. The problem now is so many PCSO's I know are ready to transition in to the PC role and there is simply no money available to fund recruitment or training for these officers. Also with all the bad press PCSO's get I think many people forget just how thick skinned many of us have to be. I have spent 2 years basically being told I am thick, incapable and generally a waste of space by people who have no clue what my role entails. Many of these people lack the most basic of social skills yet are happy to inform me how I am a "plastic copper" and I joined as a PCSO because somehow I am inferior and lack the ability to become a PC. I for one am fed up. The role has value and potential but the lack of powers is creating issues that end up in more work for the very people we are here to take the jobs from!

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  27. A PCSO is just another Accredited Person who include traffic wardens, security guards etc. PCs duties are gradually being given to civilian employees. Public contact now is by phone. We will only see police now suppressing protests. Big riots are expected (don't know why) but you've now got water cannon, CS gas etc.Any minister can declare martial law. You'll be used with the army to quell any government opposition. This is how it started in Hitler's Germany. I don't how we can stop it.

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  28. Dislike PCSOs. I am a middle aged woman who was one day followed all the way to the shops by a PCSO and when I left the supermarket he was standing there waiting for me.
    He intercepted me and I had to explain to him why I was on the pavement outside my house looking at my garden.
    I suppose he thought I was a burglar, but then he said (putting words into my mouth) that I did not live in that house. I told him I did.
    "I've seen your face before around this area," he replied.
    The point is, I don't like being spoken to as if I am a pre-pubescent teenager.
    I think some of these PCSOs can come across as very un-professional at times; they don't have the same approach as most of the police, very abrupt and officious.
    I dislike most community policing schemes, but this seems a bit of a joke to me.
    I got the impression he didn't like me very much!

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  29. Dislike PCSOs. I am a middle aged woman who was one day followed all the way to the shops by a PCSO and when I left the supermarket he was standing there waiting for me.
    He intercepted me and I had to explain to him why I was on the pavement outside my house looking at my garden.
    I suppose he thought I was a burglar, but then he said (putting words into my mouth) that I did not live in that house. I told him I did.
    "I've seen your face before around this area," he replied.
    The point is, I don't like being spoken to as if I am a pre-pubescent teenager.
    I think some of these PCSOs can come across as very un-professional at times; they don't have the same approach as most of the police, very abrupt and officious.
    I dislike most community policing schemes, but this seems a bit of a joke to me.
    I got the impression he didn't like me very much!

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  30. Today maybe it's just me and my collegues that deal with situations that you would expect a police officer?
    Yes I'm a pcso and have been for the has 10 yrs. if it wasn't for pcso's in the the city centre of Manchester no crime/incidents would be dealt with. Since the cuts in funding there has/have been times officers are not available what so ever. The only people are pcso's and they can easily wake away.

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