PCSO - Every Little Helps!Plenty of my fellow bloggers are speaking about PCSO's lately (Lights, Sirens, Action and The Monkey) and in particular the government's plans to introduce another 10,000 of them.
When PCSO's were first mentioned, the public were assured that they were not "policing on the cheap", but just a dynamic, pro-active, re-active hyperwhatsisface way of dealing with modern crime. Yeah right...
They ARE policing on the cheap - theres no argument there, and most of the PCSO's that I know acknowledge this happily with us. However, that doesn't mean they are a bad idea: like most things, there are the positive and negatives to PCSO patrol. On the positive side, they do the job they are employed to do very well, they are excellent for hi-visibility public policing, they reassure the public by showing more police officers on the street. They know all the faces of the local criminals, and submit the neatest encounter forms you've ever seen!
The main problem with PCSO's is the fact that they have no actual powers. This means two things 1) The government pays them less than they would an officer, as they are "non-confrontational" and 2) If a PCSO actually spots something happening which can't be dealt with by a smile and a stop, they call for a police officer to join them.
Thus, you regularly get the following problem. All ten response officers on duty are tied up with their shoplifters, domestics, drunks etc, with no units available. All ten PCSO's are wandering about the town centre. Two PCSOs spot an assault in progress, shout up over the radio - and theres no one to turn out. Two more find a well known criminal, and shout up that they think an officer might be needed to search said youth (on what grounds you'll never know until you get there!). Two more are approached by someone reporting a crime - can we have an officer here too?
PCSO's look good on paper, and as I said before, do what they are paid to do very well. Its just unfortunate that a side effect of their actions is to stretch out a response shift which went well past snapping point two hours into the shift. Whats the solution to this? More police officers would be a start. Unfortunately, thats unlikely as the budget just got blown on 10,000 more PCSO's - who will also all be calling for more officers to deal with the job they've found...
In summary - PCSO's would be a tremendous benefit to the police, IF we had enough actual officers first. Unfortunately, we don;t have enough police, and so the governments solution to this is hire more PCSO's, as you can get more of them for your money.