The number of sick days taken by the Metropolitan Police's civilian support officers has almost tripled in the last year, a report has revealed.
PCSOs can detain but not arrest suspects
A Met performance report said the trend of sickness among the salaried Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) had "deteriorated greatly".
Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Glen Smyth said some PCSOs were simply not fit enough for the job.
The average number of sick days rose from four in 2002/3 to 11.8 in 2003/4.
The average police officer takes 8.6 days off due to illness each year.
PCSOs have been called "extra eyes and ears" for the police by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens.
They were introduced in 2002 by Home Secretary David Blunkett.
But some rank-and-file officers opposed their introduction claiming it was "policing on the cheap".
They argued the support officers' salaries, which are less than a police officer's, should be spent on mainstream recruitment.
PCSOs have limited powers and can detain a suspect for 30 minutes, but not arrest them.
A PCSO was suspended last year after it emerged he was an illegal immigrant.
Mr Smyth said: "Many of them (PCSOs) didn't understand the nature of the job they were going to enter upon at times.
"The job entails being out on the street in all weathers and on your feet for hours at a time and they are simply not fit enough, not all, but some.
"They don't have the same in-depth checks and recruitment processes that
police officers have."