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Legal powers of a PCSO after officer 'refused' to attend 'assault' less than a minute away

Legal powers of a PCSO after officer 'refused' to attend 'assault' less than a minute away

PCSOs are different from police officers

With a recent incident involving a PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) allegedly refusing to intervene during an incident, many people might be wondering what exactly it is they can and can't do.

The video - which has since gone viral - saw the PCSO 'refuse' to step in during an incident after a woman was allegedly assaulted in a nearby shop.

The incident was condemned by members of the public, with the man who took the video saying: "What kind of message does this send out? The police refusing to police?

"The PCSO couldn't have seemed less interested. He was very dismissive, all I got from him was a 'this isn't my job' vibe."

Sussex Police has apologised for the 'clumsy language' used by the PCSO, and said it was reviewing its response to the incident.

But the whole thing has got people wondering what powers PCSOs actually have.

Diego Fabian Parra Pabon/Pixabay

Well, the answer varies, as the specific powers that PCSOs have actually differ between police forces.

PCSOs are not the same as regular police officers. They were first introduced in 2002 by the Metropolitan Police, and have since spread into wider use across the UK.

In the Metropolitan Police, for example, PCSOs have the power to issue fixed penalty notices and to control traffic. They also have a number of 'general powers', according to information released by the Met following a freedom of information request.

These include confirming a name and address, 'dealing with begging', requiring persons under 18 to surrender alcohol, seizing controlled drugs, and dispersing groups.

In the Met, they also have the power to 'detain' someone. This is different from arresting someone, which has a very precise legal meaning.

Police Community Support Officers have different powers than regular officers.

Broadly, being 'detained' generally refers to 'stop and search' powers. So, if an officer has a suspicion that someone, for example, is carrying stolen goods, then they can 'detain' them in order to conduct a search.

While PCSOs cannot arrest someone in the same way a police officer can, they can in theory carry out a 'citizen's arrest'. However, they must be able to show that the arrest meets the legal requirements for this.

However, in the Metropolitan Police, the power to arrest is not listed, so a PCSO would in theory have to wait for a police officer to arrive to conduct a search.

In the Met, PCSOs also have powers to enter and search premises to protect 'life and limb' and prevent 'serious damage' to property. For example, they could legally enter a house that's on fire to check if there is anyone inside.

This list is not exhaustive, and only applies to the Metropolitan Police. Other police forces may differ in what powers their PCSOs do or don't have.

However, broadly speaking PCSOs do not have the same powers as full police officers.

Responding to the incident depicted in the video, West Sussex local policing Superintendent Nick Dias said: "Keeping the public safe and feeling safe is paramount and our officers and PCSOs work hard to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour, often in challenging circumstances.

"We [work] closely with local retailers and partners to help prevent and respond to anti-social behaviour and assaults on shop workers.

"We are sorry for the clumsy language used by the PCSO in this exchange and acknowledge the public's concern.

“A police unit was dispatched to the scene as a matter of priority. Our response to this incident is being reviewed."

Featured Image Credit: Martin Brayley / Alamy YouTube/M1cks

Topics: News, UK News, Crime, London