Police angry at growth of civilian patrollers

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A Government minister was barracked by police officers yesterday as it was suggested that the number of constables could be reduced in favour of civilian patrollers.

A Government minister was barracked by police officers yesterday as it was suggested that the number of constables could be reduced in favour of civilian patrollers.

Hazel Blears, the minister responsible for policing, gave her full support to the growing use of community support officers (CSOs), who have limited powers. She toldthe Police Federation conference in Bour- nemouth: "As far as we're concerned CSOs are here to stay."

She stressed, however, that the Government was committed to maintaining the current record number of 138,155 police officers. But Chris Fox, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the number of police officers in England and Wales may fall slightly as those of CSOs swell.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, will tell delegates that the Home Office will continue to fund extra CSOs, but will insist they are not a replacement or substitute for fully trained officers. Mr Blunkett will also say that it is essential for the police to build stronger links with local neighbourhoods to improve respect for the law.

Earlier, the chairman of the federation constables' committee, Bob Elder, said the CSOs' deployment could lead to an overall fall in the number of police officers. Use of CSOs could also "con" the public into thinking streets were safer, he said.

"Given the choice, the public would far prefer a fully trained bobby on the beat, sworn to protect life and property and to uphold law and order, rather than a limited community support officer patrolling the streets after just three weeks' training," he said.