Some bad news coming out of Norfolk this week, as Norfolk Police Constabulary have declared their intention to stop using Police Community Support Officers. The move comes in the wake of recent police budget cuts, and the constabulary’s desire to tackle more complex crimes that fall outside the scope of PCSO work – such as sexual abuse.
This is a topic that we have previously discussed in some detail, but now Norfolk have become the first constabulary to officially scrap the role of PCSO. This will lead to the loss of 150 qualified PCSOs, currently working for the organisation.
In the face of mounting despair over the plans, the chief constable of the constabulary has elaborated on how and why this will be done, claiming that the cost of using PCSOs is simply not worth the money for the constabulary anymore. It costs just £1800 less to employ a Norfolk PCSO, than it does a fully trained officer – meaning that in the constabulary’s eyes this is a no brainer. He cited an unparalleled growth in complex crime cases, and reduced budgets, as the reasons for this.
Norfolk PCSO: The Role
Despite the criticism, Norfolk constabulary are making these cuts with the best of intentions. They have declared in a statement that they believe this will provide the best means possible for them to protect vulnerable members of society.
At present, PCSOs cannot arrest or interview suspects. Despite this, they are cheaper for constabularies to use, and provide a great police presence on the streets, as well as offering fantastic levels of support to the community.
The money that will be saved from chopping PCSOs will be used to fund positions for 81 new officers and 61 support staff. So, 150 PCSOs will be removed, and replaced with 142 different staff members.
Amongst the biggest critics of the move, came from Labour politicians. The blame for the move has fallen largely upon Conservative budget cuts, which Labour claims are hurting the general public more than anyone – as police effectiveness is negatively impacted as a result. Labour politicians have called on the Conservative government to take responsibility for this, claiming that ‘you can’t protect the public on the cheap’. They have said that this sets a dangerous new precedent for the police as a whole.
Is the Criticism deserved?
So, is the criticism fair? That’s the big question. There’s no getting around that this isn’t good news – budget cuts have forced Norfolk constabulary into making a decision, which on the face of it could be fairly harmful. But is it really so bad? Norfolk constabulary recently published a new policing plan, which outlines that radical change was necessary anyway – regardless of budget cuts. This plan basically attempts to demonstrate that more resources are being thrown towards dealing with minor criminal incidents, than they are serious incidents such as child abuse or rape – which is obviously not okay. On the face of it, this seems like an admirable plan. However, completely removing PCSOs altogether is extremely drastic, and genuinely could have a negative effect. As Labour MPs have pointed out, this could have a knock-on impact to other police constabularies across the country – who might look at this and decide to get rid of their own PCSOs.
That being said, Norfolk Constabulary are under huge budget restraints. The budget will fall by a total of 1 million pounds in the next year, obviously a huge figure, meaning that they have to find some way to cut costs. Naturally, the union which represents PCSOs is not too happy about this, claiming that PCSOs perform extremely valuable work. The union placed the blame solely on the government, who have slashed police budgets, meaning constabularies now have to do so much more with less.
Following the announcement of the Norfolk PCSO plans, consultations will be held to decide on the best way forward, and when the role of Norfolk PCSO will be removed altogether from Norfolk Constabulary.
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