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PCSOs can help turn around trust crisis, police leaders say

PCSOs remain underrated despite two decades of supporting response teams, according to sector leaders.

Community support teams are an under-used resource that could take pressure off response teams, force leaders have been told.

The union representing Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and the head of the College of Policing say they are now the lynchpin of work to protect neighbourhoods. And they can help warrant holders focus on serious offending as well as gain vital intelligence.

The testimonials coincide with the 20th anniversary of their creation by then Home Secretary David Blunkett with the Crime and Disorder Act.

Unison which represents the 9,400 PCSOs said the role has now come of age.

Ben Priestley, the Unison national officer for PCSOs, told Police Oracle they have significant support at the top of policing.

He said: “We have a real sense that there’s strong support within National Police Chiefs’ Council for PCSOs.

“They’ve established themselves as the bedrock of community policing. Gender is 47% female and diversity is better than for warranted ranks.”

Unison also argued PCSOs have been central to improving critical work with other public sector organisations.

“They’ve been innovative in engaging with the public and developing community hubs in places like universities to do outreach work,” Mr Priestley said. “They provide that highly visible police presence that officers can’t do in the useable patrol time.”

Austerity impacted on their numbers: Norfolk made all of its PCSOs redundant. But the Welsh government has affirmed its commitment with a pledge to recruit 600.

Ahead of an event next week in Westminster that will highlight to MPs and peers the work they do, PCSOs also got a boost from one of policing’s senior leaders.

The College of Policing released a review of their work and an update to the PCSO handbook for supervisors that argued the role can be dynamic and a swift way of gaining community trust.

Andy Marsh, Chief Executive of the College of Policing, said the role could be key to rebuilding relations with the public following two years of torrid incidents.

He told Police Oracle: “One of the College of Policing’s roles is to identify where truly good practice is. The PCSO supervisor evaluation was a thorough focus on the value PCSOs bring.

“I’ve been in policing 35 years now and one of the most significant achievements has been emphasising neighbourhood policing,” he added. “Where delivered effectively and communicated, it can make the biggest difference in trust and confidence.”

Unison hopes Chiefs will use the anniversary to back their teams who he argues are just as committed as warranted colleagues.

He said: “They don’t go to work just to be thanked. You cannot not be impressed by just how strongly committed they are. They have a powerful sense of public commitment.

Unison urged Chiefs to use the opportunity to show public support for their PCSO by marking the anniversary.

Mr Priestley said: “That’s what we want to see.”

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