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Yes, PCSOs should be scrapped - but let’s make them all PCs, instead of redundant

A PCSO walking on Hunstanton beach. Picture: Ian Burt

A PCSO walking on Hunstanton beach. Picture: Ian Burt

The job title of PCSO is no longer needed - but instead of making them redundant, let’s recognise their contribution by making them all PCs.

As people defend our police community support officers (PCSOs) in the wake of Norfolk’s proposal to abolish the role, readers with long memories may be giving a wry smile.

Unquestionably, the individuals doing those jobs in Norfolk have served their communities with great distinction.

The backlash against the latest announcement, part of £10m of cost-savings, shows they have become immensely valued and provide great comfort to their neighbourhoods.

But PCSOs were met with much derision when launched by the Labour government in 2002.

A PCSO keeping his eye out for illegal parkers in Dussindale. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY A PCSO keeping his eye out for illegal parkers in Dussindale. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Mocked as “plastic policemen”, the idea was that they deal with low-level - but still important - issues, freeing up PCs’ time.

MORE: Union reacts to policing changes which could see scrapping of PCSOs

They have been seen by many as the friendly face of the law. Yet the continued criticism is that they aren’t “proper policemen”.

Not giving PCSOs the powers of arrest was, in my view, a big mistake which damaged their credibility in the eyes of the public.

Having a uniformed officer who can’t arrest criminals is a bit like a surgeon who can’t operate on patients.

Increasingly, PCSOs have been given the responsibility of keeping their neighbourhoods safe but without many of the powers they may need to achieve it - responsibility without power, to reverse a famous phrase.

The fact they have become so respected despite being hamstrung by a lack of powers shows what tremendous individuals we have working for the force.

MORE: Devastated Police Community Support Officer issues stark warning that Norfolk will not be as safe or secure after PCSOs are axed

It also shows what a tragedy it is that vast numbers of them will be made redundant, even though they are skilled at keeping people safe.

The reality is though that a PC with full powers is always going to carry far more credibility with the public and, crucially, offenders. The PCSO role is simply not needed.

Instead, in my view those people ought now to become fully-fledged PCs.

I know - it sounds like I want to have my cake and eat it.

MORE: Norfolk’s crime commissioner says fears policing will be less visible after PCSO cuts is a misconception

But PCSOs are doing much of the work of a PC anyway, plus they don’t cost a huge amount more.

Instead of making a huge number of them redundant, let’s respect the fact their presence is a reassurance and fully recognise them all for their work. Let’s make them all PCs.

Of course the problem is Norfolk Police’s own hands are being tied with a lack of government funding. Quite simply, they need to be given more.

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