David Blunkett has attacks South Yorkshire Police plans for PCSOs
Mr Blunkett, who introduced PCSOs in 2002 when he was Home Secretary, says that PCSOs were never intended to replace police officers
The plans have been put forward by the force's new Chief Constable David Compton in an attempt to free-up regular police officers for other duties. The intention is to deploy police officers "taskable teams" available to deal with more serious incidents once PCSOs are retrained and deployed as first responders.
Mr Blunkett said: "Community support officers are intended to be part of neighbourhood beat teams and not a replacement for them.It would be deeply regrettable if we reverted to the Z-Cars era of flying squads and concentration on reaction rather than prevention". He added, "We learnt the lessons from that, which is why from the mid-1990s to the present time we have seen such a dramatic drop in crime." Mr Blunkett did accept that there could be room for a bigger role for PCSOs but alongside regular officers.
The former Home Secretary said, "I certainly would not be against PCSOs being given additional powers, but as part of neighbourhood policing, where warranted officers will always be required to conduct arrests, develop good scientific forensic investigations and build the kind of community policing which engages those living there rather than seeing the police as a crisis force only."
Mr Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee told the Today programme's Evan Davis that the proposals, which are being put forward by South Yorkshire police, that "this is a serious departure from traditional policing". He went on to say that "you should not take risks with policing" by replacing officers on the beat with Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs). "I don't think the public will be fooled," he said, adding that PCSOs are "part of the team, they are not the team".
The South Yorkshire Police website has published an article reassuring the people of South Yorkshire that will not remove Police Officers from frontline policing and replace them with PCSOs. It said that a report had been created by South Yorkshire Police regarding PCSO roles within safer neighbourhood teams as an update for this morning’s (Friday,13 April) South Yorkshire Police Authority meeting.
South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable, David Crompton said: "Today's discussion in relation to PCSO powers and duties would not result in a removal of police officers from frontline policing. Coverage suggesting that this would result in less police officers on the beat are inaccurate - police officers will remain visible in the community and continue to work in the same areas that they do now." He added, "PCSOs will continue their valuable role working alongside police officers and special constables in safer neighbourhood teams as they always have done. Our proposal is that we enhance their powers so that they can deal with more incidents that don't require a police constable with the powers of arrest.
Jim Lucas, from the South Yorkshire Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file police officers, said he could not accept the proposals. "What we don't want is for police officers to only turn up when someone needs either arresting or dealing with," said Mr Lucas. "We don't want to be seen to be the bad guys. We've spent years and years with communities building up a relationship with the police."
As the Government continues to strip out funding for Police Forces Chief Constable will feel obliged to force through policies that provide more for less. Without clear guidance from the Home Office these and similar policies with water down the effectiveness of the police. Would you replace all our teachers with teaching assistants or all our nurses with axillary nurses and expect the same service? of course you wouldn't but by the back door this is going to happen to the police service.
A spokesman for the Home Office said, "How officers are deployed is an operational matter for the Chief Constable and their police authority."