Police hiring civilians on zero-hour contracts to guard crime scenes after sacking all PCSOs

Policing or military experience 'desirable' for posts advertised by Norfolk Constabulary 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Friday 08 February 2019 11:16
The woman was found dead at a home in the Isle of Dogs
The woman was found dead at a home in the Isle of Dogs

A police force is hiring civilian staff on zero-hour contracts to guard crime scene cordons, after sacking all its community support officers (PCSOs).

Norfolk Constabulary is to pay the new “scene guards” £10 an hour for duties including securing cordons, preserving evidence, running a scene log, monitoring people entering and leaving and dealing with public and media enquiries.

A job advert said a background in the police, military or security was desirable, as well as experience of dealing with confidential information, adding that applicants would be vetted.

Guards will be allocated a base station near their home and “deploy to various scenes as required across Norfolk, standing for long periods”, the advert said.

“Post-holders will be required to wear a uniform, be asked to work unsocial hours (evenings, nights and weekends) in all weathers doing a minimum of four duties per year. Full training will be given.”

Norfolk Constabulary said former police officers and soldiers had made up many of the 32 applicants.

A spokesperson for the force said: “One aspect of both a police officer and a PCSO’s role was to attend scene seals. Our review work has shown that this particular duty could be performed without a policing warrant, leaving police officers to deal with greater threats to the community.”

She added that civilian guards would only be deployed at “low-risk” scenes that need a 24/7 police presence while investigations are completed.

Norfolk Constabulary said it hoped to give “free up officer time for more complex enquiries” and reduce overtime.

Clive Lewis, the Labour MP for Norwich South, said the move was “just the latest consequence of the Tory government’s cuts”.

“Already, we have the fewest police officers per person, no PCSOs and just one police station in Norwich that doesn’t even open all week,” he added.

“Now we find that the role once performed by uniformed officers will be outsourced to a casualised civilian workforce on zero-hours contracts, a practice that should be banned rather than imported into the public sector.”

Louise Haigh, the shadow policing minister, said the staff “have neither the accountability nor the training of PCSOs”, adding: “This is policing on the cheap.”

Norfolk became the first force to ditch PCSOs after finding they cost the same as a local PC but they had less powers, as part of controversial reforms following years of budget cuts and rising violent crime.

A statement said the 150 PCSOs lost will be replaced by a “virtually identical amount of police officers” over the coming year.

A spokesperson said its new policing model would improve the service to the public, while reinvesting in neighbourhood policing and serious crime.

Cressida Dick: 'Naive' to think cuts to police haven't had impact on rising crime

Norfolk is one of many police forces starting to prioritise how it responds to reports, after the loss of more than 20,000 officers nationwide since 2010.

Some senior officers have linked the reduction and budget cuts to a rise in violent crime, with statistics released on Thursday showing fatal stabbings at a record number in England and Wales.

The policing minister, Nick Hurd, said the government had taken urgent action on violent crime and drawn up a nationwide strategy to tackle it.

“We have listened to police concerns about rising demand and have proposed the biggest increase in police funding since 2010,” he added.

“I’m confident the new settlement, which delivers up to £970m of additional public investment into policing in 2019/20, will help the police continue to recruit more officers.”

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