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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 23:17 GMT
Police warden plans condemned
Security guards could get powers of arrest
"Radical" government plans to give powers of arrest to community wardens in England and Wales have met with a cool reaction from police officers and civil liberties groups.

The Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, bitterly condemned plans for a new force of Community Support Officers (CSOs) with powers to use reasonable force to detain suspects.

Chairman Fred Broughton told BBC News: "We have been warning against this sort of dilution of police powers to less professional, less qualified people for some time.

When it comes to stopping and detaining, we believe that is a policing function

Fred Broughton,
Police Federation

"Chief officers just two years ago set out guidance which we fully support in relation to neighbourhood wardens.

"They should be the eyes and ears, they should be the super-caretakers, they should take care of all sorts of environmental issues, all sorts of issues in relation to people and places.

"But when it comes to stopping and detaining, we believe that is a policing function.

"We would much prefer a stronger and larger police service - which we are being promised - supported by a special constabulary."

Other representatives were concerned there would be confusion about what the CSOs could do.

More people... should mean more police officers, not poorly trained and less accountable substitutes

John Wadham,

Chief Superintendent Kevin Morris, Superintendents' Association president, said "We have to be realistic: they are out there on our streets and it is in everyone's interest that they are accountable and helping us provide a better service.

"It is important that we know who is out there but we do have concerns about the limit of their powers.

"The important thing is that the public are left in absolutely no doubt about the extent of those powers."

John Wadham, director of civil rights group Liberty, also voiced serious concerns about granting police-style powers to CSOs and private security guards.

He said: "These powers have to come with adequate training and accountability.

"That simply means these powers should remain with the police - if more people are needed to implement them that should mean more police officers, not poorly trained and less accountable substitutes."

People are wary of powers of enforcement... there's a feeling it might create a barrier between the community and the wardens

Stephen O'Hagan
Stockport Borough Council

Dave Curtis, the manager of Stockport's town warden scheme, welcomed the introduction of similar units across the country.

"It certainly works for Stockport and it would certainly work elsewhere," he told BBC News Online.

But Mr Curtis said he had reservations about giving police powers to civilians.

"The police have a different recruitment and training. We are taking unemployed people and we receive applications for a different type of person to the police force," he said.

Stephen O'Hagan, head of estate management at Stockport Borough Council, agreed.

"In the limited consultation we've done we've found that people are wary of powers of enforcement.

"There's a feeling it might create a barrier between the community and the wardens."

See also:

05 Dec 01 | UK Politics
'Radical' police reform unveiled
05 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett's bold plans for police reform
05 Dec 01 | England
Wardens welcome patrol reform
02 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Plan to reform 'failing' police
29 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Police anger over Blunkett reforms
12 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett reveals police reform plans
11 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Top police recruits to be fast-tracked
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