OPINION: Students explain why their research led them to view PCSOs more favourably

WE are four students from Neale Wade Community College, March, who are currently undertaking the GCSE Citizenship coursework. For our coursework we are investigating whether PCSOs play a vital role within our community.

At the beginning we agreed with the commonly held belief that PCSOs did not do enough to justify the funding they received from the government. For example we believed that for many of them did not really have any useful powers and the little power they did have they used to over step the mark.

To investigate this we decided to talk to PCSO Carol Holloway and Brian Purdy the photographer at the Cambs Times and Wisbech Standard.

They gave us their views on this issue and they told us even though a minority do let the little power go to their head (an example of this is an article from the Daily Mail with the headline- Police forced to apologise after YouTube video showed PCSO accusing animal rights protestor filming pet store of being a terrorist) most PCSOs do in fact provide a beneficial role within our community.

It is a stereotype that PCSOs do not have any power/influence or do anything useful. This impression came from the media, portraying them as useless and a waste of resource (a new recruit costs between �20,406 and �28,162).

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However in reality they can detain suspects until a police officer arrives, confiscate alcohol off drunken and disorderly people causing a nuisance, and give out fines, such as to people who park unsafely at primary schools.

Due to this police offers can spend their time more efficiently on more serious crimes whilst PCSOs can undertake minor jobs such as taking statements and providing links between the community and the police force.

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From our meeting with PCSO Carol Holloway we found out that the powers a PCSO actually has and their many roles within the local community. The PCSO told us during the interview that although they can be portrayed across in the media as ‘a waste of the governments resources’ they do actually play a vital role in the local community with helping about and keeping the community safe by creating good relationships with the public and local community.

When we met with Brian Purdy, we were given an opinion of PCSOs from someone who has to deal with them regularly when covering news stories. He said that his paper does not have an agenda and so deals with stories as they come – either negatively or positively.

However, recently we have seen what seems to be an increase of positive stories about PCSOs. This may reflect a change in attitudes towards the PCSOs or it may be as a result of them being used more effectively by the police as experience has allowed them to find their role.

But we found that national newspapers, such as the Daily Mail which has an anti-waste of taxpayer’s money agenda, seem to show PCSOs in a more negative light. An example of this was its article “PCSOs ‘solve crime every six years”, which is so unfair as it is not their role to solve crime.

When we started this investigation we believed that PCSOs were portrayed fairly and we thought negatively of them. But after our lengthy research we have realised that PCSOs do play a vital role within the community even though they do not share many powers of that as a ‘proper’ police officer.

Therefore after all of the research our attitude has slightly changed in favour of PCSOs, and we hope after reading this article yours may too.

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