Concern about changes to role of police community support officers

The possible effect of changes to the role of the Police Community Support Officer on visible policing across Sussex was top of the agenda for members of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel.sussex-police-logo

The panel, which supports and scrutinises the work of Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, met on Monday, July 4, to discuss issues, the annual report and preparation of the Police and Crime Plan for 2017- 2021.

It focussed on changes that came into force on the day of the meeting giving PSCOs in Sussex additional powers to allow them to deal with antisocial behaviour caused by alcohol, take statements and carry out some investigation work.

Panel chairman Cllr Brad Watson said: “Many of the Panel members, particularly those from rural locations around Sussex, felt that in their previous role PCSOs offered reassurance to their communities by building up a rapport and being a visible link between the police and public.

“There was concern that the new model would cause this link to be lost.”

But speaking at the meeting, Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said the changes gave communities a better service and improved resilience, with PCSOs equipped with smartphone technology and ready to go to where the need was greatest.

She said the new model was a result of changes in how crime is committed and a clear message from the public that they value the role of PCSO but were frustrated that, when officers are on leave or not on shift, there was no one to contact.

Mrs Bourne said she would continue to challenge the chief constable based on the questions and concerns raised by members of the public and the panel.

Cllr Watson asked the commissioner to bring an update on the neighbourhood policing model back to the panel.

Katy Bourne presented her annual report and highlighted successes including  the launch of Safe Space Sussex – an online directory of support services in Sussex; investment in a hate crime reporting app to encourage people to report incidents to a third party, and grants totalling £280,000 for 52 local project tackling crime and improving community safety.

The panel chairman asked the commissioner for an update on new legislation under which she had a duty to collaborate with the fire and rescue service to identify whether combining services was efficient, effective and in the public interest.

Mrs Bourne said she would be beginning discussions with leaders of the fire service in east and west Sussex and would share the business case with the panel once this had been drawn up.

The next Sussex Police and Crime Panel meeting will be held on Friday, September 23, at County Hall in Lewes.

See also:

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