I will make no bones about it:- I am not the number one fan of Police Community Support Officers as an institution and I am a supporter of the idea of elected police commissioners. From their introduction I viewed PCSOs as a cheap method of having uniforms on the streets. My court experiences of them have not changed that view. They are cheap labour put in place in an attempt to reassure a populace confused as to whether crime is rising or falling that there is protection from public disorder on the high street. Their prime purpose we are told “is to reduce crime, the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour by being highly visible within the community. Their presence it is hoped will deter anti-social behaviour and many other offences”. It seems that CCTV cameras are festooned all over the country with precisely the same objectives and like these cameras PCSOs do not have to have a single GCSE to be accepted. The pay is just over £16,000 p/a. In the current economic melt down there is an increased reliance on them and unpaid special constables to retain a minimal presence on the streets. Indeed the policy of the Met Police is that eighteen months as a special is a pre requisite for acceptance as a trainee police constable. This form of apprenticeship is to be applauded. However there seems to be some confusion with regard to budgets and recruitment within Derbyshire Police Authority.
Seven months ago Derbyshire Constabulary, forced to accept the sacking, retirement or redundancy of 120 police officers, was considering increasing the powers of its PCSOs. IMHO to give more powers over the citizen to people who are at the very bottom of a discredited educational system is madness when there is such unemployment amongst people with higher qualifications. Perhaps there is indeed a higher educational hurdle now in place but which is absent from the public domain. In May Derbyshire`s Assistant Chief Constable Dee Collins was quoted as saying PCSOs were keen to do more. She added: "There are particular types of events they can help us with. Clearly anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related crime is something that really, really troubles our communities. I do think there are some opportunities there for us to revisit those powers and perhaps do some training with our PCSOs, before we give them those powers to do more for the public."
Roll on to this week and Derbyshire Police Authority announced that they were recruiting new police officers from April 2012. Philip Hickson, chairman of the Authority was quoted as saying, "Any organisation that doesn't bring new people in runs the risk of becoming a stale organisation." It seems to this observer that this little story indicates why the voters of Derbyshire should have a Police Commissioner to oversee the policing of their county.