Home Opinion CSAS: A Power for Good?

CSAS: A Power for Good?

by Brian Sims
Peter Webster

Peter Webster

First established by the Police Reform Act back in 2002, Community Safety Accreditation Schemes (CSAS) are realising a significant impact on the private security sector. Peter Webster outlines exactly how and why more security companies are being afforded enhanced powers in their local environments.

When the Police Reform Act 2002 came into being over a decade ago now, many national news headlines focused somewhat inevitably on the creation of Police Community Support Officers. Very few column inches were given over to the fact that, under Section 40, this Act also introduced the ability for chief constables in England and Wales to confer a limited range of police powers on other individuals as part of Community Safety Accreditation Schemes (CSAS).

CSAS extend the number of individuals allowed to perform some of the work usually carried out by sworn police officers. In essence, they permit such ‘accredited persons’ to have limited but targeted powers appropriate to their roles. CSAS aim to provide an additional uniformed presence by capitalising on the skills of – and any information captured by – those already engaged with security and/or law enforcement duties in the community.

Accredited persons can act upon a range of issues such as littering, underage drinking and graffiti and deal with general incidents of antisocial behaviour, disorder and nuisance. They can also issue penalty notices on anyone knowingly raising a false alarm with the Fire Brigade or acting in a manner likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

While accredited persons don’t have the power to detain or arrest, it’s an offence for an individual to refuse to provide an accredited person with their name and address when asked to do so or otherwise assault and/or obstruct them in the course of their duties.

In their early days, one of the reasons behind the relatively low profile of CSAS was that police services hadn’t experienced the kind of cuts that they are dealing with today. To date, under the austerity measures nearly 16,000 officers have been lost from forces in England and Wales – the equivalent of losing all the police forces in the South West of England, in fact. Paul Ford, the current secretary of the Police Federation’s National Detectives’ Forum, has stated that this issue is directly affecting the police service’s ability to protect communities and respond to calls.

Cutting to the chase

Early last month, a BBC News story focused on a three-month trial conducted by Leicestershire Police during which time the force deliberately adopted the tactic of only sending forensic officers to those burgled homes with an even door number in a bid to find out whether this course of action would adversely impact victim satisfaction or overall crime rates.

Apparently, the trial was prompted as a result of analyses conducted by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) which covers Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. The EMSOU had found that, of 1,172 attempted burglary scenes, few exhibited any forensic evidence. Only 33 suspects were identified.

Commenting on the trial, Jo Ashworth – director of forensic sciences at the EMSOU – said: “At a time when we’re operating within reduced budgets, it’s even more critical that we make the absolute best use of our crime scene investigators’ time.”

Policing resources were also under intense scrutiny following the recent Hatton Garden Safe Deposit robbery, of course, when it was discovered that the police decided not to respond to an intruder alert issued by the Alarm Receiving Centre. This incident has left many professionals in the security sector concerned that they cannot rely on a police response when needed.

Crunching those numbers

Back in the early days of CSAS, the response by police forces to the notion of private sector security companies taking on additional powers could only be described as lukewarm.

As a result of growing pressures on policing resources, the last few years have seen greater use of CSAS, yet the Home Office appears reluctant to provide annually updated nationwide figures. In fact, the last survey conducted by those at Marsham Street was way back in December 2010. It duly showed there were 26 police forces participating in CSAS encompassing 2,219 individuals accredited with specific powers.

In point of fact, all organisations with members of staff playing an active role in safeguarding our communities can seek accreditation. Following on from this, the effectiveness of CSAS very often boils down to the quality of the individuals involved and the training they’re given. The Police Reform Act 2002 states that a chief constable may not grant accreditation unless they’re fully satisfied that the individuals involved have received adequate instruction for the efficient and effective exercise of their powers.

Further, there has been concern about whether the procedures that need to be carried out before someone can be accredited simply duplicate the work of the Security Industry Authority (SIA). That said, it’s demonstrably clear that the standards for licensing required by the SIA and those taking part in the CSAS accreditation process will be consistent. In many respects, standards for accreditation to the latter will be higher than those required by the SIA simply because they afford an individual access to certain police powers.

Recipe for disaster

National Police Chiefs’ Council approved services providers for CSAS must organise specific training which has to be vetted to a national standard. An organisation must accredit individuals as being fit and proper and suitable to exercise the powers duly conferred upon them. Furthermore, the employing organisation must also have a fit and proper person in place to supervise the work of an accredited person.

It must be borne in mind that not all of the employees in an organisation may meet the standards required. There’s no general solution to this scenario. Responses will differ depending upon the number of employees affected and specific deployment requirements.

Choosing the right people is of paramount importance. Failing to give this subject proper consideration is a recipe for disaster.

At one extreme, some security personnel could be excessively officious, while on the other hand individuals might simply see their extra powers as an excuse to be more ‘heavy handed’ in their actions. Put simply, some organisations might not have the necessary selection procedures in place. Ultimately, this could render their employees and members of the public at increased risk.

Good security work requires tenacity, determination and the ability to stand one’s ground when confronted by challenging situations. Accredited persons must be able to exercise high standards when it comes to conflict management skills, assertiveness, risk assessment and Health and Safety awareness. To do so effectively means having excellent interpersonal and social skills and recognising the importance of community safety.

Issuing a fixed penalty notice to someone who’s drunk and/or aggressive and who views an accredited person as nothing more than a ‘Hobby Bobby’ requires finely-tuned conflict avoidance skills. All-too-often, security companies think that the most effective way to deter trouble on a tricky assignment is to deploy the biggest, toughest, most uncommunicative and aggressive men for the job. It’s certainly a policy with the potential to cause more problems than it prevents.

Emotional intelligence involves the ability to monitor one’s own and indeed others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide thinking and actions. While many men have excellent levels of emotional intelligence, women are particularly good at being able to identify, assess and control situations.
Body language is often a more accurate indicator of someone’s reaction to what’s being said or done at a given moment. Knowing how to respond to this is crucial and perhaps one of the reasons why females are extremely good at diffusing potentially volatile situations.

Back-up plans in place

One significant concern when it comes to security personnel operating under CSAS is what happens when things go wrong. As stated, while the onus is very definitely on security companies to ensure that the right people are deployed, it would be unreasonable to assume that the potential for things to go awry from time to time is non-existent.

In a threatening or otherwise dangerous situation, will security personnel receive the kind of quick response from the police service that they need, or will such incidents simply be downgraded? A positive answer to this question is something that the security industry as a collective must seek assurances on if closer co-operation between private sector security providers and the police service under CSAS is to be a mutually beneficial experience.

Peter Webster is CEO of Corps Security

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