If we are to have civil rights – that is protection enshrined in law – then those that have the powers to implement the law – that is the police service – must be very clearly identifiable. PCSOs implement the law no more than other social servants such as the social services.
The increase in Community Support Officers (PCSOs) on the streets, often accompanying a Police Officer, over the last few years has been astounding. As early as October 2007 it was revealed that there were actually approximately 13,500 PCSOs including 3,700 employed by the Metropolitan Police.
With this increase, so too has the uniform of PCSOs become almost indistinguishable from a Police Officer's uniform at a distance. This is one of the largest and seemingly unchecked onslaughts on Civil Liberties in the last five years.
It is illegal under the Police Act 1996 to impersonate a police officer, and yet there are now well over 13,500 PCSOs sporting uniforms so close to Police Officers that many people I speak with have trouble telling them apart at any distance. The reason this law came into being was because a police officer has recieved dedicated training, is fully accountable, and employed by the HMIC. In return the police officer is given coniderable powers over members of the public to ensure law and order are maintained.
A PCSO has not the training of a police officer, the accountability, or is employed by HMIC. In recognition of this, PCSOs do not have the powers of a police officer and can only make citizens' arrest as any member of the public is entitled to do so. Therefore, the wearing of a uniform the emulates a police officers' uniform is grossly and dangerously misleading to the public as well as undermining the police service.
I hope that this 'idea' draws a response from government as it seems to have become a rapid development with few legislative checks in place.