What is a Police Community Support Officer?

Photo:PCSO John Sharman talking to Jackie Fuller outside the gate to Pelham Square

PCSO John Sharman talking to Jackie Fuller outside the gate to Pelham Square

Photo by Henry Bruce

Main roles and powers

By PCSO John Sharman

The two main roles of the PCSOs (Police Community Support Officers) are:

  1. to provide high visibility patrol within the local community, thereby being approachable for members of the public and a deterrent to anti-social behaviour and criminal activities, and
  2. to support police officers by performing primary roles of  'eyes and ears' and 'observe and report'. PCSOs also carry out secondary enquiries and deal with reports of low level complaints or anti-social behaviour.
PCSO powers

Below are some powers that PCSOs may exercise under Part 4 of the Police Reform Act 2002, authorised by the Chief Constable of Sussex Police:

  • To stop cycles and also issue fixed penalty notices for cycling on the footpath
  • To confiscate alcohol in designated places
  • To confiscate alcohol and tobacco from young people
  • To remove abandoned vehicles or seize vehicles being used to cause alarm to others
  • To enter to save life or limb or to prevent serious damage to property
  • Under Section 36 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to enforce cordons; and under Sections 44 & 45, with a constable, to search vehicles and items carried by persons in authorised areas
  • To stop vehicles for the purpose of testing and to place road signs
  • To seize controlled drugs
  • To issue non-endorsable parking tickets.
Requiring names and addresses

PCSOs have the power to require the name and address of a person in the following circumstances:

Reasonable belief that

  • A relevant offence or a relevant licensing offence has been or is being committed
  • A relevant fixed penalty offence has been or is being committed
  • An offence involving injury, alarm or distress has been or is being committed
  • An offence involving loss or damage to property has been or is being committed
  • Someone is in possession of controlled drugs
  • The subject is or has been acting in an anti-social manner.
PCSOs' rules of engagement are that:

  • There will be no expectation that PCSOs will engage in activities assessed as high risk
  • The decision by a PCSO to withdraw, observe and report is a valid tactical option
  • There is no positive duty for a PCSO to intervene - they are civil staff, not police officers, and are there to support police officers by performing the primary role of 'eyes and ears' and 'observe and report'.

  • [Previously published in the 'North Laine Runner', No 195, Nov/Dec 2008]

    This page was added on 01/12/2008.

    I have never seen a PCSO in the North Laine. Is this currently operational?

    By Adrian Morris Bekhedda
    On 16/08/2010

    I think so - but I've passed the query on to one of the North Laine Community Association officers who would know for sure.

    By Anne Fletcher, Sub Editor
    On 16/08/2010

    The PCSOs are very much operational in the North Laine. Besides regularly patrolling the area, they attend NLCA meetings and provide reports on recent crime in the area. The NLCA works with the police to identify the main priorities for the area. See minutes here for details on these priorities, which are discussed at every monthly meeting.

    By Peter Crowhurst, NLCA Vice Chair
    On 18/08/2010

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