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03/04/2009

Police Community Support Officer Launch Abandoned

There has been further confirmation that the PSNI is unlikely to get long-awaited unformed support from civilian patrol officers in the near future.

Although initially launched as a joint initiative by the Northern Ireland Office and PSNI in 2006, funding problems have stymied the NI Policing Board's scheme to act on recommendations on recruitment of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs).

This week, a Board spokesman confirmed that funding pressures meant recruitment could not proceed "at this time".

He also said this is not the only such delay due to cost constraints.

"Funding pressures also affected some projects aimed at improving how the police deal with calls from the public," said the statement.

"These issues are being kept under review and the Board will be keeping a close watch to ensure that resources are used to be best effect.

However, engagement and partnership working are key to building on successes to date and the Board acknowledged that, "whilst good progress has been made there is clearly still much more to do", one issue being unresolved is that of the PCSOs.

These officers have limited powers of arrest, and already patrol extensively in Great Britain, usually alongside regular officers.
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Their proposed introduction into NI was initially welcomed as a possible solution to anti-social behaviour problems, which takes up much of the work of the PSNI.

These issues regularly 'top the poll' when District Policing Partnerships seek feedback from their respective communities when identifying particular policing problems.

Partly for that reason, in February 2006, the NI Policing Board agreed in principle to the recruitment of PCSOs.

Their key role would have been to provide a high visibility reassurance to communities.

At that stage it was thought the necessary legislation would be in place by March 2007 and a senior police officer even 'launched ' the concept at the time.

It has since been put further and further back, before finally being 'shelved' last April, with this week's news pushing their possible introduction even further back.

However, on other issues of community poicing, the PSNI have put in place an 'action plan' to progress the recommendations and areas for improvement.

This work will continue to be monitored by the Board's Community Engagement Committee and its report will be considered in detail at its April meeting.

See: Debate On Loss Of Police Support Officers

(BMcC/JM)

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