Thursday, February 19, 2009

In defence of police community support officers...

The Daily Mail seldom lets the facts get in the way of a good headline: as illustrated by their ridiculous attack a couple of days ago on Lincolnshire's police community support police officers.

The Mail discovered that PCSOs in our county have cost taxpayers almost £10 million, but only issued 15 fixed penalty notices.

To get its headline, the Mail joins up these two pieces of information to assert:

"It means each fixed penalty notice costs more than £650,000 in public money..."

That's complete Mail rubbish and sloppy journalism: the Mail wrongly assumes that the sole purpose of PCSOs is to issue tickets and dismisses out of hand all the other valuable work they do.

Issuing tickets was never meant to be a top priority for PCSOs. The clue the Mail conveniently misses is in the title of course...

The prime role of PCSOs is supporting full police officers and increasing the uniformed on our streets.

And in my humble opinion, they do an excellent value-for-money job for local communities.

Here in the Deepings, our PCSOs patrol our streets and give reassurance to local communities.

Before they existed, residents (and particularly former Tory councillor Victor Bulmer-Jones) endlessly whinged that we never saw a police officer locally. Now, thanks to the team of more than 150 PCSOs, we do - and satisfaction with Lincolnshire Police has risen since they were recruited.

PCSOs providng 'visibility' and 'reassurance' to local neighbourhoods actually frees up full police officers to concentrate on aspects of policing that demand a more than a month's basic training .

I was very disappointed to see one of my colleagues on the Police Authority quoted in the Mail's story thus:

One member of the Lincolnshire police authority admitted taxpayers would be alarmed by the details of the PCSOs' performance.

Councillor Chris Underwood-Frost said the £10 million spent on the team could have paid for 70 full-time officers.

He added: 'People aren't daft - the public know that this is just policing on the cheap. It's like sending the army to Afghanistan without any guns.'

Chris is one of the Tory councillors on the Police Authority who forced through the totally daft and eye-watering council tax rise of 78.9 per cent for policing last year.

Fortunately, the Labour Government sensibly 'capped' the Authority - ordered a refund of £50 for every council taxpayer in the county.

The comments attributed to Councillor Chris U-F suggest that Lincolnshire's 159 PCSOs each cost less than half that of a fully trained police officer.

The Tories hate PCSOs - largely because they were brought in by Labour and not them!

But if the Tories - or anyone else - seriously believe that PCSOs are a waste of money and should be scrapped, I'd invite them to go on patrol for a shift with our own PCSO Chris Clarke.

Last year, some toerag dumped a load of stinking rubbish in the cemetery behind my house. I called PCSO Chris and despitye it being a Sunday morning he was there in minutes. Even better, the toerag was caught and was duly prosecuted and fined. That's value.

Any local resident is welcome to pop along to the next Deeping St James Parish Council meeting at the Institute on the last Thursday of the month at 7.30pm when PCSO Chris gives his monthly report on his excellent work in our community.

Just a couple of weeks ago, for example, PCSO Chris reported on how he effectively dealt with an outbreak of anti-social behaviour in one part of our village.

My picture shows PCSO Chris a couple of years ago dealing with the fire which destroyed a row of shops on the old Todds Garage site.

Using Daily Mail logic, if this fire was the only one dealt with by PCSOs, Chris's presence for this picture cost the taxpayer £10 million...

No comments: