Sussex Police criticised as dozens of PCSOs prepare to leave the force

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Dozens of PCSOs have ‘had enough’ of Sussex Police as the force prepares to cut the number of officers serving communities across the county.

Last week, the force announced it was recruiting for a new PCSO role - one that ‘better reflects the changing nature of crime and the needs of communities’.

As part of the rollout of the new scheme, current PCSOs have been given the opportunity to apply for a position.

A police source claimed 76 PCSOs will leave their posts on July 3, with many ‘glad to get out’.

The source said: “From July 3 this year 76 PCSOs will leave the force with a redundancy payment based on so-called trainable changes to their role. On July 4, Sussex Police and the community will have 76 less officers serving the community and we shall have lost more experience.

“A vast majority of the PCSOs asked to apply for their own jobs chose not to, such is the poor morale and lack of confidence in the police and the cuts to the force.

“These officers have had enough and are all leaving on July 3 and glad to get out.”

A spokesperson for Sussex Police said 196 PCSOs will be employed under the new model - with 186 serving local communities and ten stationed at Gatwick Airport.

At the end of December 2015, the force employed 259 PCSOs.

The spokesperson said: “We gave our current PCSOs the opportunity to apply for the new role on a priority basis so we could retain their knowledge and skills.

“We are delighted that most of them have applied but there are some who haven’t so we have opened up recruitment externally.

“We hope this will attract applicants from a wide range of backgrounds who want to make a difference in the communities they serve and better reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.

“We are legally obliged to begin consulting with staff as early as possible. The current PCSO role is being made redundant and a new role is being introduced that better responds to the changing nature of crime and demand for our services. “We are making substantial changes to PCSO contracts of employment that increase the flexibility of PCSOs so we can deploy them to where they are needed most; increase their powers to prevent anti-social behaviour and resolve problems with communities; and require them to reach a higher standard of fitness and wear body-worn video. In return our new PCSOs will receive a higher salary.”

In announcing the new roles, the force said PCSOs will be ‘equipped with additional skills and powers’ and ‘deployed more flexibly across the whole of Sussex to where they are needed most’.

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said she has spoken to existing PCSOs who are ‘looking forward’ to their new role.

She said: “We all recognise that the challenge of keeping people safe is becoming more difficult. The changing nature of crime requires a different policing response, new methods of investigation and forensic analysis, and officers with the requisite skills and training.

“From their introduction in 2002, PCSOs have gradually become an established and valued part of local policing but the local policing model in Sussex has remained largely unchanged during this time.

“Sussex Police are now taking this opportunity to revise PCSO skills and ensure they are equipped to support investigations, actively contribute to reducing crime and keep our communities safe.

“Like the public, I value the work of our PCSOs and local neighbourhood policing teams. As Police and Crime Commissioner, I do not influence operational decisions (this includes where and how PCSOs are recruited and deployed) as these are the responsibility of the Chief Constable and his senior officers.

“However, my role is to scrutinise Sussex Police and represent the public’s views and this is why my ongoing challenge to the Chief Constable is that his new, local policing model must maintain public confidence and reassurance whilst delivering an effective and efficient police service.

“I’ve spoken to many existing PCSOs who will be applying for the enhanced role. They are looking forward to the increased autonomy, improved salary and to contributing much more to investigations and providing more effective support to deal with local problems.”

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