Wiltshire Fed rep calls for PCSOs to be axed

The chair of the Wiltshire branch of the Police Federation of England and Wales is urging Wiltshire Police to axe the role of police community support officer (PCSO) and replace them with warranted officers.

Jul 12, 2019
By Tony Thompson

In an open letter to Wiltshire residents, Inspector Mark Andrews said PCSOs were no longer the “cheaper option”.

He wrote: “We can no longer do what we used to because we have been beaten to a standstill by the Government. The time for bold decisions can’t be delayed. To do so would only further reduce Wiltshire Police’s ability to keep the community safe.”

Insp Andrews wants the force to follow the example set by Norfolk Police, which last year scrapped 150 PCSOs, with around one third moving to other roles, including a number who became constables.

“Norfolk Police, similar size to us, which had a similar number of PCSOs, has now removed this role with a gain of almost 100 officers, many of whom were encouraged to join from the PCSO cohort. Now is the time for Wiltshire Police to consider the same action,” he said in his letter.

“Over the years we have relied upon the excellent work of our PCSOs to fill the gaps, taking on more and more, which removes them from their primary function of working in the community and tackling anti-social behaviour. Our PCSOs are dedicated people who bring a lot of skills to the organisation, but they are no longer a cheaper option. How can we justify having a PCSO over the PC, when there appears to be less bang for our buck?”

His comments followed a Home Office review of frontline policing, published earlier this week, which revealed high levels of exhaustion and frustration as budget cuts have seen officer numbers fall by 20,000 since 2010.

Insp Andrews said that despite the recent recruitment of an additional 45 officers, Wiltshire Police was down 200 in the past decade and this had led to an increase in violent crime and more mental health issues among police officers: “Our officers are expected to do more with less and our resilience and morale is now at rock bottom.”

Responding to Insp Andrews’ letter, Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said: “It is clear that we are under increasing pressure to respond to new and emerging demands so it is important that our model can respond effectively to this demand.

“Despite all these challenges, our workforce morale remains one of the highest in the country and we continue to invest in and develop the wellbeing support to everyone at Wiltshire Police. Public safety remains our number one priority, so we are taking a number of measures to ensure our frontline teams have the staffing levels they need.”

Insp Andrews’ suggestion was also rejected by Wiltshire and Swindon’s police and crime commissioner Angus Macpherson, who said: “We have and continue to build a modern workforce with the right blend of people, skills and experience that has the capability to keep us safe as well as focus on prevention of crime. PCSOs and police staff are critical to compliment the role and skills that are central to policing in Wiltshire.”

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