The future of PCSOs is in severe jeopardy. As a result of budget cuts, proposals have been put forth to significantly curb the numbers of active PCSOs around the country. In areas such as London and Birmingham, the total number of PCSOs will fall dramatically. So, why is this happening, and what will the impact be? Why are PCSOs to be axed? How2Become decided to investigate…
What is a PCSO?
A PCSO is a voluntary member of the police staff, who operates as a civilian officer; and has different powers to actual police officers. There are many reasons why a person might choose to start off as a PCSO. Mainly, however, it is a great way to get yourself in the door prior to becoming an actual officer. Until a few years ago, PCSOs were widely used and it is estimated that there were at least 3 PCSOs patrolling every ward in every borough of London. However, changes to neighbourhood policing reduced this, and now the position of PCSO is facing its biggest challenge to date.
Why are PCSOs to be axed?
The proposals are a result of severe budget cuts to the Police Service. PCSOs are not the only casualty, as cuts will also impact strongly on front desk staff and other areas of the Service. However, given PCSOs are voluntary; but still have significant resources spent on training/equipping them etc. it is natural that this is an area which is being considered for cuts in the face of financial adversity.
What is the current status of the plans?
The future of PCSOs is currently very much in limbo. At a London board meeting in September, 3 options were proposed. These were as follows:
- To axe up to 1,000 currently serving PCSOs.
- To retain 630 ward PCSOs, leaving one in each London borough.
- Keep the existing structure.
After an agreement failed to be reached, and after further discussions, the decision has been set back until later in 2016. Until then, the existing structure will be left in place. Despite this, cuts continue to be made, and more and more PCSOs are being shown the door by struggling constabularies.
What has the reaction been to the plans?
The majority of people are in stark disagreement with these plans, and for good reason. Unions in particular have recognised that cutting PCSOs will significantly damage an essential area of the force. The safety of local people will take a big hit if these plans are introduced. By reducing the number of voluntary staff, you take away from an extremely hard working area of the force. PCSOs are naturally hard-working and enthusiastic, as they to build towards a place in the service. Unions have claimed that, with the news that PCSOS to be axed, neighbourhood crime will increase dramatically as a result of these plans.
In defence of the plans
In response to Union criticism, the government and police service have stated that unfortunately, cuts are a necessary way to maintain more valuable parts of the police service. They claim that it is not just PCSOs who are being cut, but all areas of the service. This includes frontline police officers, as well as desk staff. In the wake of such financial difficulty, they claim, hard choices need to be made. Unfortunately, this means that certain areas of the police service will need to be stripped back. This is in the best interests of the public, as it will allow them to maintain a stronger overall police service.
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