Are PCSOs Facing Abolition?

“£86m bill for “plastic police” who issue one fine every two years” (full article herewas a headline in a February 2009 Evening Standard. And now we hear that the Conservative government‘s spending cuts threaten to add substance to this warning by cutting PCSOs altogether.

Photo courtesy Flickr, Leo Reynolds

“£156,000 a crime: How 330 PCSOs who cost taxpayers £8m detected just 50 crimes” read another article headline from the Mail Online in 2010. (to read the full article click here).

PCSOs “vital”

However I put this to the Tories and to every paper editor that publishes this nonsense: evaluating PCSO effectiveness as a group to their community through quantity of fines issued is both shortsighted and an injustice to the PCSOs. I would even suggest it deserves an apology.

When David Blunkett introduced PCSOs in 2002, Scotland Yard claim the PC’s would be a “vital part” of Met community. I feel these men and women are vital, not as detectives or crime stoppers (as the Standard and Mail seem to suggest) but instead as crime preventers.

Effectiveness not appreciated

Perhaps for a more balanced break down of the notion of “effectiveness” would be looking at figures such as potential crime avoided through their presence or even how much safer communities feel with them there. Alas, I feel for the PCSOs as such figures are simply not tangible and I hope that their effectiveness does not finally get appreciated after they are gone.

I spoke to James Hargrave, Assistant Communications Officer at the Police Federation of England and Wales and he explained that the potential redundancies to PCSOs is not a reflection of their importance to society but instead as an easy way of reducing costs to the government:

PCSO redundancies “cost-cutting” exercise

He said, “PCSOs are subject to standard employment rules (unlike normal police officers due to the “important role they perform”) and as such can be made redundant. Thus PCSOs are often being cut as a ‘simple’ solution to budgetary constraints. Of course the other side of this is that Police Officers will be expected to fill the gap.”

So here we can see that the Police Federation do acknowledge that there will be a gap left by PCSOs in the community that normal police will have to either incorporate into their “important role” or risk lower levels of safety in the community.

Making people feel they “fit in”

I spoke to James, a local PCSO in Islington last week and he felt that it was a main duty of the PCSOs to make everyone feel as if “they fit in” to the community.

Would a busy policeman on duty have had the time to greet me with a smile and give me some of his precious time? Perhaps. However James’ cheeriness was infectious and left me with a smile. To do away with important people like James would surely have to be a crime in itself.

I would love to know what other PCSOs and Police Officers feel about this topic so please respond and let me know your views and whether you feel the government is potentially overlooking a key factor of a safer community in the PCSO.

Reply below or tweet @onthebeat101