Now the dust is beginning to settle after the General Election and after the recent terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, what does the future hold for PCSO's?
We have a badly weakened Tory government under pressure to respond to those attacks and deal with the potential for future attacks. At the same time they are coming under severe criticism for the cuts to police budgets and facing calls for those cuts to be reversed. A number of senior officers have said that increased costs of wages, pensions & IT (for example) mean an actual cut in budgets despite the govt saying the budget will be protected.
Add to that the requirement to staff enquiries into those terrorist attacks, plus the Grenfell tragedy, and the strain on resources increases. Some of those staff will have be taken from other investigations such as historic child abuse, cyber crime & war crimes investigations (as mentioned by Asst. Commissioner Mark Rowley) to staff the counter terrorism investigations. Extra funding is one thing but you can just open a box and pull out more officers. Even if the recruitment process was accelerated new officers still need to gain knowledge and experience. I notice the Met is looking to recruit detectives from outside the force but investigating burglaries is one thing, an attack on the scale of London Bridge or Manchester Arena is another.
I would not be surprised to see response officers extracted to these investigations with routine policing suffering as a result (there will be a knock on effect). There is a reluctance amongst response officers where I work to go to CID; something to do with their wages dropping due to the shifts I believe. One Insp has said either people volunteer or it'll be names out of a hat. Not very good for morale. Maybe that's why the Met is recruiting externally; none of their staff are coming forward.
I work in West Yorkshire and over the last Bank Holiday weekend we were at our highest threat warning following the murders in Manchester. As we went off duty on the Thursday into 4 rest days we were asked to provide a mobile phone contact number. The next day we ach received a call asking if we wanted to work the Bank Holiday on a 12 hour shift. I did. Not just because I need the money but also because my wife & daughter were off doing whatever mothers and daughters do. Shopping mainly, so I was at a loose end. 12 hours double crewed, double bubble and a day in lieu. I had no sense of "doing it for the job". Those feelings were beaten out of me over the last few years of cuts, indifferent management and incompetent supervisors. PCSO's working on a Bank Holiday! The job took those way a long time ago. I joked to Mrs Powdermonkey that the thought of a 57 year old, (slightly) overweight, (slightly) grey haired PCSO would have ISIS quaking in their boots. "Quick! Cancel the suicide attack, there's a plastic on the way!" You see, I was ready for them with a full pocket of Community Resolutions and a spare biro.
Joking aside, we all know that the police are stretched. So, if police officers are extracted to other investigations and neighbourhood policing is one of the functions that suffers, might we see an increase in PCSO powers, a change in role? Maybe even an increase in numbers? After all, it's quicker to recruit & train a PCSO than a PC and consider what our role essentially is. Community engagement. I would argue that as it's PCSO's who are the ones out on foot meeting and talking to people, calling in at brew stops, schools, shops, mosques etc we're the ones most likely to gather intelligence. Surely people would be more willing to pass information to a known and trusted face than wander into the front desk. Granted there's always the phone and the internet but nothing beats a face to face with a PCSO who knows the area and the people?
WYP are recruiting new PCSO's as of next week but I think it's just back filling. As far as I'm aware they'll only be posted to areas where the local council still part fund PCSO's so not all across the force area.
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