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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
On the community beat
Keron Richards has dreams of being a police officer
Their critics call them "Blunkett's Bouncers", but the line up of new community support officers presented to the public by the Home Secretary on Monday did not seem the strong-arm type.

The civilian patrols prefer to call themselves the eyes and ears of the police - a worthier title, but one already used for traffic wardens - perhaps an unfortunate link, especially as a similarity in uniforms has also been noted.

The confusion of identity is one issue that has been seized on by opponents of the scheme - shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin recently branded them "plastic policemen".

Keron Richards rejects that title, and speaking to him it is clear that any uncertainty over the role of the CSOs does not come from the officers themselves.


I have always wanted to do something for the community, and to do things fairly. That has always been my dream

Keron Richards
Keron, 21, is very much the sort of person the Home Secretary must have had in mind when the scheme was first thought up - a young, Jamaican-born Londoner with a passion for putting something back into the community in which he lives.

As a child in Jamaica, he played at being a policeman.

When his family moved to the UK he became a police cadet at the age of 16, and a security officer for the last two years. Keron feels he was born to wear the uniform.

An attempt to join the police service proper faltered on a failed test, but he now feels he has been given an opportunity to fulfil his dream.

"I have always wanted to do something for the community, and to do things fairly. That has always been my dream. This is my way of doing that.

Keron is getting to know his new beat
A week spent walking the streets of his new beat in Charing Cross, central London, has given a taste of his new job - and wiped away any illusions of glamour he might have been tempted to harbour.

"It has been quiet so far," he said. "I haven't seen any serious problems, but we are also there just to help people, to give directions if people ask us, that kind of thing."

He stressed the self-defence training new CSOs are given, as well as the fact that a police radio means help should not be too far away if things got out of hand.

With concerns that some ethnic minorities are under-represented in the police force proper, Keron agreed his background could help build some bridges on the ground - but said the work of the CSOs was more important than who they were.

"London is a multicultural city, so you have to be able to work with everyone."

Keron sees his new role as offering him a route into the police force proper - there is a fast-track scheme for CSOs who prove their suitability.

At the same time, along with his fellow recruits, he will be hoping to prove to the doubters that the "plastic police" are made of stronger stuff.


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See also:

23 Sep 02 | England
30 May 02 | England
23 May 02 | England
07 May 02 | Politics
05 Dec 01 | Politics
23 Sep 02 | England
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