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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
Police officers jeer at minister
Hazel Blears
Blears told police the civilian officers were popular with the public
Home Office minister Hazel Blears has been barracked by police officers for praising the work of civilian community support officers.

The minister was speaking at the Police Federation's annual conference in Bournemouth.

The Federation is concerned that the growing use of CSOs could lead to the demise of the role of constables.

One member described CSOs as a "cheap imitation" of regular policemen and women.

There are now 3,500 community support officers in England and Wales.

Their job is to patrol the streets providing visible reassurance to the public.

'Cheap imitation'

The chairman of the Federation's constables' committee, Bob Elder, described them as a "cheap imitation" of regular policemen and women.

He said senior police officers had "traitorous intentions" of destroying the fabric of policing by increasing the numbers of CSOs.

Association of Chief Police Officers president Chris Fox said the number of police officers in England and Wales may fall slightly as CSOs' ranks swell.


Mr Fox told the conference: "We are probably at the peak of the number of police officers we can afford and therefore expansion may be at CSO level."

Ms Blears said CSOs are very popular with the public, who like to see uniformed officers on patrol.

She was jeered and heckled as she said: "As far as we're concerned CSOs are here to stay."

One police constable accused her of subjecting them to "death by patronising".

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