Home Office failing to answer PCSOs

OntheBeat101 asks the tough questions. But are the Home Office ready to answer?

The Home Office are not in the police service’s good books. Two weeks ago, on May tenth, an estimated 32,000 off-duty police took to the streets in protests at the Home Office’s  reforms and cuts. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, was heckled at the Police Federation conference.

The Police Federation has warned that the changes are  “destroying” the police.

Well OntheBeat101 has had its own dealings with the Home Office, and here is how we got on…

Some of you will remember that a while ago we asked you to give us your questions for Policing Minister Nick Herbert.

We had been in touch with the Home Office and wanted an interview with him, and initially they said it would be possible, but that he was quite busy.

Eventually they told us he was too busy to answer PCSOs questions in person, and refused our request for a brief interview.

They agreed that we could send him through the questions, and he’d write us up some answers instead.

Police march in protest at reforms

Two months to get answers

Obviously, this wasn’t quite as good as an interview in person, but we had little room for manoeuvre, and accepted. Several weeks later – and we contacted them a numerous times – they finally got back to us.

Nick Herbert, apparently, was too busy to even answer our questions in writing. A spokesman did it instead. This was almost 2 months after we’d first got in touch.

Police Anger at Home Office

Considering the PR difficulties the Home Office is having at the moment, particularly with the policing community – you might think they would be a bit more proactive in making a good impression and answering the legitimate questions of PCSOs, officers and staff.

The Home Office’s cuts have been criticized by police

Apparently not. When we finally got the answers, we were disappointed that they didn’t always answer the questions you had given us.

In the end, we decided to publish the answers exactly as they were sent to us, by a Home Office spokesperson. Let us know what you think about them by leaving a comment below!

Q. Theresa May says the Police’s only role is to reduce crime. You’ve said it’s their primary one. But we know that perception and fear of crime is damaging to individuals. How do you square the fact that there is a perception of rising crime even as crime itself has been falling? What can/should the police do to deal with this? How does the number of PCSOs affect this?

Crime remains too high. That is why we are reforming the police, so that they are free from paperwork and free to fight crime. From November Police and Crime Commissioners will be elected to drive down crime and give people a say in policing.

We are providing the public with detailed street crime data through police.uk enabling the public to hold the police to account.

PCSOs will play an important role in ensuring police resources are focused on the frontline.

Q.  Despite assurances to the contrary, the number of frontline officers is falling due to budget cuts. In such circumstances, what is the future of PCSOs?

The government’s reforms are not just about saving money.  They are about making sure police officers are able to do the job they signed up to by being out on the street and serving the public, not stuck behind a desk doing paperwork.

Our reforms will make policing better by cutting bureaucracy so officers can concentrate on their one core mission – to cut crime.

The Government strongly supports the use of PCSOs and recognises the invaluable role they play in connecting the public to the police.

Policing Minister Nick Herbert too busy to answer your questions

Q. In the wake of the allegations of racism at the Met, the chair of the Met’s Black Police Officers’ Association Bevan Powell questioned how elected commissioners would handle such a scandal. How can we make sure that Commissioners will make racism a priority when it may not be for their voters? What is the key to reducing racism in the police?

Racism, in any form, is abhorrent and has no place in our society. We take allegations of police racism very seriously.  Such allegations must be investigated thoroughly and, when and where required, perpetrators must be dealt with robustly. PCCs will be powerful advocates of the communities they serve – and who elect them

Q. A large proportion of PCs are now recruited from the within the PCSO pool (so PCSOs become PCs). Is this wise given the different skills required for the jobs?  Doesn’t this reduce the effectiveness of the PCSO role as many PCSOs now see their jobs as merely a stepping stone to becoming a PC? Is this just a way of cutting costs as it’s less expensive to train a PCSO to become a PC than to train someone from scratch?

PCSOs provide a valuable service to the public and gain real hands-on experience.  PCSOs complement the work of PC and are not intended as a fast track route to becoming a police officer.

Q. Directly elected Police Commissioners may be more easily made accountable, but why would someone outside the force be good at the job at all? Can one person represent large, varied, Constabularies such as Thames Valley? How will they deal with the competing priorities of different areas? Won’t they just prioritise those areas they know will vote for them?

The PCCs will be important figures in the communities they represent, but they don’t have to be politicians.  They could have experience in the private, voluntary or public sector and come from any background. Anyone who is interested in finding out more about the role of PCCs can visit a dedicated section on the Home Office website.

Has the Home Office failed to answer PCSOs questions?

What do you think? Are you satisfied with the answers you were given? Is the Home Office avoiding your questions? What would say to Theresa May and Nick Herbert?

We want to know your thoughts and feelings, so do leave a comment and let us know!