Crime scenes to be guarded by civilians on zero hours contracts after loss of PCSOs
Ex-police officers and veterans are being hired on zero hours contracts to replace PCSOs guarding crime scenes.
The move from Norfolk Constabulary is thought to be the first of its kind in the country after the force scrapped the role of community support officers last year.
Traditionally crime scene seals would be manned by the PCSOs, but since their loss the role has fallen onto constables.
Applications have begun to come in for the new role of scene guard - civilians in uniform who will stand at a cordon to protect investigations.
The idea is to free up warranted police officers for other duties, who would otherwise spend hours standing at crime scene seals.
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Norfolk Constabulary describe the role as 'an alternative reserve style model' which will 'alleviate the particular demand around cordons on front line officers'.
The first job openings, paying around £10 an hour, have seen 32 applications from around the county. Each scene guard will be expected to carry out at least four postings a year.
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Andy Symonds, chairman of the Norfolk Police Federation, said: 'What we have experienced since the removal of PCSOs is officers will be standing at the scene.
'The force has then thought, can we have civilians do that?
'PCSOs had no more powers than a normal member of the public when it came to scene seals. They would come up on the radio and the police would turn up and support PCSOs if constables' powers were needed. The only issue with the scene guard is we will be waiting longer at the scene for them to arrive.
'It will be on zero hours contracts, which will save the force money.
'I do have a fear these people are not beholden, so when they pick up the phone they could just say, 'no thanks'.
'The PCSOs were employed by the force so we had that resource there.'
According to the job advertisement, the main activities of the role include; 'preserving crime scene integrity' and 'deal with enquiries from public and media'.
Guards will also be expected to run a scene log and record details of any witnesses who come forward.
Desirable criteria includes 'experience of working with confidential and sensitive information' and 'experience of working in a police environment or similar'.
Also desirable is experience of 'dealing with confrontation'.
Mr Symonds added he would be 'concerned' if the role of the scene guard was broadened in the future.
He added: 'We are supportive because it releases officers to do police work. With austerity, standing at a cordon is a luxury we can't afford.'
Chief constable Simon Bailey said the scene guards will be 'coming on line very soon'.
'A number of those [that have applied] are ex-cops, and a number are ex-services,' he said.
'That will take some pressure off our police officers.'