Home Secretary Theresa May used the Lord Ferrers Awards* – the national awards for volunteers in policing – as the launchpad for a consultation into proposed changes to those law enforcement powers held by police volunteers and staff alike. The consultation, which lasts until 31 October, proposes reforming the roles of police staff and volunteers such that they can play a greater role in policing our communities.
Since 1831, volunteer Special Constables have held all of the powers conferred upon a sworn and serving police constable whereas Police Support Volunteers have held none.
Designated police staff, including Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), have those powers set out in the Police Reform Act 2002.
The PCSOs’ role is primarily one of engaging with the public, but they can also have powers to issue fixed penalty notices, confiscate alcohol or tobacco from minors and detain those suspected of a range of offences for up to 30 minutes while awaiting the presence of sworn police officers on scene.
Part of the Home Office’s package of reforms proposes enabling volunteers to be designated with powers in the same way as staff, allowing them to work more closely with their policing colleagues in keeping their communities safe.
Lincolnshire Police has already appointed a number of Volunteer PCSOs, who work diligently alongside their full-time colleagues in a bid to keep their communities safe. While they currently don’t have any coercive powers, this shows there’s demand from some police forces for volunteers to perform these roles.
Detail of the main Home Office proposals
The proposals put forward by the Home Secretary include:
*Creating a list of ‘core’ police powers – including arrest and stop and search – that would remain exclusive to police officers
*Enabling chief officers to designate a wider range of powers for police staff and volunteers
*Enabling volunteers to be designated with powers in the same way as staff
*Abolishing the role of traffic warden under the Road Traffic Acts
“Police officers across the country carry out a wide range of duties, keeping the public safe and ensuring justice for the most vulnerable members of our society,” stated Theresa May. “We value the essential role they play, but they cannot do this on their own. I believe volunteers can do more, helping forces to create a flexible workforce, bring in new skills and free up officers’ time to focus on the jobs only they can carry out.”
The Home Secretary continued: “This Government wants to encourage those with skills in particular demand, such as those with specialist IT or accountancy acumen, to become involved and help the police investigate cyber or financial crime as well as assist officers and staff in fighting crime more widely.”
May also stressed: “This Government is committed to finishing the job of police reform. We intend to legislate in the upcoming Policing and Criminal Justice Bill.”
*The Lord Ferrers Awards highlight the vital role volunteers play in support of policing by giving up their free time to make communities safer and enhancing the effectiveness of policing across England and Wales
Local police out in force tackling extremism
More than 500 front line police officers and staff across the UK are taking part in a week of activity to build local support in preventing extremism. At the same time, a new survey shows high levels of confidence among youngsters when it comes to informing the police on their concerns about people being radicalised.
As part of the activity week (which runs from 7-11 September), local policing teams will be working alongside Prevent Engagement Officers to explain how the public can play their part in keeping the UK safe from terrorism by being aware of signs of radicalisation and reporting their concerns to police officers.
Across the country, a wide range of activities are taking place including:
*A simulation exercise showing how a young person can be groomed and radicalised through social media (taking place at the University of Kent at Canterbury on Friday 11 September). There’s also a Prevent Focus Group running in partnership with the Kent Youth Parliament
*49 different events taking place in the West Midlands region, starting with a Prevent workshop for 16-24 year-olds run in conjunction with The Prince’s Trust
*The launch of a Prevent film by the North West Counter-Terrorism Unit showing what Prevent means to a range of professionals, including police, healthcare and education sector workers
*Community Forums and a Prevent web chat in the North East
Chief Constable Simon Cole – the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s Lead for Local Policing- explained: “We can only reduce the threat we face from terrorism and domestic extremism if we all play a part in preventing young people from being radicalised. This is why local communities and families have a vital role to play in helping to prevent tragedies on our doorstep. It’s reassuring to see that that people are putting their trust in the police and coming to us for advice and support, as well as asking for guidance from their family network.”
Alan Lyon, the national co-ordinator for Prevent at the National Counter-Terrorism Policing headquarters – added: “It’s crucial that the police service focuses its Prevent engagement activity where it’s most needed, working with our partners through the new Prevent Duty. The headline findings from the national survey tell us that concentrating our effort on engaging with young people, women and families is the best approach towards safeguarding our communities.”