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EDITIONS
Monday, 23 September, 2002, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Civilian police go on patrol
Community support officers
The officers will spend three weeks training
A new breed of civilian patrol officers has taken to the streets in London.

The first police community support officers (PCSOs) went on patrol after completing a three-week training course.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens introduced the new recruits to Home Secretary David Blunkett in central London and said they would be welcomed by the public.

And Mr Blunkett announced 27 police forces across England and Wales have secured funding for their own CSOs and could be employing them within months.


It seems to me the money would be better spent on more police officers

Sir David Phillips, Association of Chief Police Officers

Eventually they will have the power to use force to detain, but not arrest, members of the public for up to 30 minutes.

A two-year trial of the CSOs' new detention powers will be phased in by the Met, along with West Yorkshire, Lancashire, Devon and Cornwall, Northamptonshire and Gwent police forces, Mr Blunkett said.

The 45 men and women will perform a "security role, supporting police officers and providing reassurance to Londoners", said the Met, which plans to recruit hundreds more by the end of the year.

Sir John said on Monday: "Although people have been slightly sceptical in the past, we know this will work."

David Blunkett added: "It's very important that we get this right, which is why we have six pilots relating specifically to the detention powers.

"We will want to hear back from them about how the different operations are working and how we can adjust or improve on that."

Limited role

But rank-and-file police officers have opposed the introduction of CSOs, claiming it was "policing on the cheap".

The CSOs' starting salary is 21,278 a year compared with about 26,000 for a new Met police constable, whose training programme is longer and much more expensive.

Police on the beat
Critics say it is "policing on the cheap"

Under the Police Reform Act they will be able to make limited searches, hold suspects for up to 30 minutes while the police are called, and hand out fixed penalties, although not all powers are available yet.

The Met's initial design for a CSO uniform had to be altered because it was too similar to a constable's uniform.

The decision to employ CSOs caused a major split among senior police.

Sir David Phillips, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said in May that creation of the new tier of officers had "little merit", adding: "Very few of my colleagues are enthusiastic for the scheme.

"It seems to me the money would be better spent on more police officers."


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See also:

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