Crime Commissioner clears up misunderstanding over future of PCSO service

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has stepped in to clear up an apparent misunderstanding which has seen a petition of more than 500 names gathered against a change which has never even been planned by the county’s force.

Wednesday, 22nd May 2019, 4:43 pm
Updated Friday, 24th May 2019, 1:56 pm
Dr Alan Billings

Signatures have been gathered on a 20 page petition in the village of Shafton in Barnsley “against the withdrawal of local community support officers (PCSOs)” although no plans exist for such a move.

The petition is unnamed and may be submitted to Barnsley Council or South Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel, the political body which holds PCC Dr Alan Billings to account.

Gathering so many signatures may have been a time consuming exercise for those involved, but the petition’s source is not identified.

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However, Dr Billings has stated there is no proposal to withdraw PCSOs, which form part of recently introduced neighbourhood policing teams, from the county.

A review of the way PCSOs operate is being conducted, however, and may result in changes to their responsibilities and numbers as police chiefs seek to provide the best balance of resources for communities.

The work is not a cost-saving exercise, however, and if PCSO numbers are reduced, it is expected officer numbers will be increased.

That would have the advantage of putting more staff into neighbourhoods with the power of arrests, meaning they are more capable of enforcement duties.

Dr Billings said: “There is no proposal to withdraw local PCSOs.

“Hopefully, it is a misunderstanding. We are sorry if they have been given mis-information. It is a about a PCSO review, it is not about withdrawing neighbourhood teams. It is about strengthening them.

“I have said a number of things to the review team. If you are going to have PCs in neighbourhood teams, they have to be PCs who do a bit of walking around, not just sitting in cars.

“They have to be there for a long period of time, so they get to know people, the streets and be genuine neighbourhood police constables.

“If they don’t have that, neighbourhood teams will be severely weakened. We need PCs as dedicated as PCSOs are.

“If PCSOs become constables, can we keep them in their neighbourhood, as neighbourhood officers, initially, so there is some continuity?”

Dr Billings has also requested that any changes to pay structures – which could be a part of revised working arrangements – be introduced on a tapered basis, to avoid staff going off “a cliff edge” without time to acclimatise to the change.