PCSOs have had a bit of a bad press recently. On the whole they are a hard working lot of people, but they suffer from the fact that their role is still far from clear, and even some sworn officers don't really know what powers PCSOs have. As we all know, they have the power to 'detain' someone for 30 minutes until a Constable, who enjoys the power of arrest, arrives. Unsurprisingly, quite a few of our local low-lifes don't like to be detained, and put up a struggle. Assaulting a PCSO in the execution of his duty is an offence, but therein lies the problem, since the PCSO's powers are so limited. They can detain if they come across an offence in progress, or if they cannot establish someone's name and address, but in other cases all that they can do is stand by, a bit like Sergeant Wilson in Dad's Army, and ask the person ever so nicely if they wouldn't mind standing there for five or ten minutes until a policeman turns up. If they would mind, that's tough. Stranger still, if someone is wanted on a warrant from court and a PCSO spots him, there is nothing the officer can do about it, so long as the offender offers his name and address before, inevitably, making off. And if the officer decides to collar Johnny Absconder because he was flagged as wanted at the morning briefing, and Johnny's mate turns up to help him, assaulting the officer in the process, then an Assault PCSO charge won't stick, because the officer was not in the execution of his duty at the time.
PCSOs' roles are already suffering mission creep, but we owe it to them to give them the training and powers they need - or we could always just pay a bit extra and hire some more PCs.
The PCSO's Blog is worth a look to get an inside view.
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