Devastated Police Community Support Officer issues stark warning that Norfolk will not be as safe or secure after PCSOs are axed
PUBLISHED: 09:04 21 October 2017 | UPDATED: 15:05 21 October 2017
© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2010
Norfolk will not be as safe and secure as it was - that was the stark warning issued by a devastated Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) facing the axe as part of radical reforms.
Proposals announced by the Norfolk force include axing all 150 PCSOs, closing seven stations and shutting front desks to the public.
The 150 PCSOs at risk would be replaced with 81 new police officers and 16 non-officer roles as part of a move which will save £2m a year and follows the biggest review in the force’s history.
One of the PCSOs now facing the axe has told of the anger and devastation faced by all those who attended the meeting at the force’s Wymondham headquarters this week.
The experienced officer, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “There was a lot of anger at the meeting that was held.
“There were people who went out of that meeting in tears.
“I don’t actually blame the chief constable but there’s an enormous amount of anger and upset among our colleagues and every PCSO is devastated.
“PCSOs in this force have put a lot of very, very hard work in over the years.
“They’ve risked their own safety, their own lives and done their level best to serve the public and its a hell of a kick in the teeth.
“We’re expected to carry on as normal, we’re expected to carry on the job like nothing has happened and still go out and serve the public knowing that we’re all facing the chop.
“They talk about a consultation period but its not its a done deal.”
The officer added: “The 81 officers they talk about are not 81 extra officers that will be out on the streets all the time.
“The reality for the people of Norfolk is there will be less officers on the ground.
“The county of Norfolk will not be as safe and secure a place come March 31 next year.”
He said a lot of the anger being experienced by those at risk included misconceptions about the lack of powers of PCSOs, including their lack of powers to arrest people.
But the officer said they had the same powers of arrest that other members of the public did, namely citizen’s arrest, which they have utilised on countless occasions.
PCSOs received a letter inviting them to attend Thursday’s meeting about a week ago but “didn’t expect it to be that bad”.
The officer said: “I’m hoping to be able to secure employment elsewhere within the force but there aren’t 176 vacancies so I don’t know.
“There’s going to be a lot of people facing a lot of heartache because there aren’t the jobs out there.”
The move, which Chief Constable Simon Bailey described as one of his hardest days in the job, has already prompted an online petition to be launched, via the change.org website, demanding sufficient funding of the police, so the redundancies can be avoided.
But while there is obvious anger about the proposed cuts to PCSOs opinion is very much divided among the county’s MPs.
Sir Henry Bellingham, MP for North West Norfolk, paid tribute to the “sterling job” done by PCSOs who he described as being “great servants of Norfolk” but admitted the announcement was “unavoidable”.
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said PCSOs would be a great loss and has blamed the announcement on government cuts.
But Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, said she supported the proposals. She said: “Obviously, this is a tough choice and for constituents who work as PCSOs I recognise that it will be unwelcome. On balance, however, I think this is the right choice for providing the best kind of policing in my urban constituency.”
Keith Simpson, MP for Broadland, said: “It’s very sad for the people involved because they’re losing their jobs. They’ve been very useful from the point of view of gathering intelligence, but I can absolutely understand, having had conversations with the chief constable, why he’s doing this.”
Liz Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, said she supported Norfolk Police in the strategy they had set out and said it was right the force was changing the way it operated in response to “changes in the nature of crime”, particularly in areas like child abuse.
Norman Lamb, North Norfolk MP, said he had enormous sympathy for those at risk and wanted to hear from others, including his constituents, but backed the chief constable in what he was doing.