Celebrating 20 years of Police Community Support Officers
This year, Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) celebrate 20 years of delivering neighbourhood policing.
On 24 July 2002, the Police Reform Act introduced the PCSO role, and they have played an integral part in neighbourhood policing ever since.
This anniversary allows us to celebrate the importance of the PCSO role and recognise the value it brings in helping to protect communities.
At Thames Valley Police (TVP), our first PCSOs started in Oxfordshire in 2003, and they continue to be an integral part of communities ever since.
Based in local areas, PCSOs provide a crucial police presence. Primarily through targeted visible patrol, they deter anti-social behaviour, provide reassurance, gather intelligence and work with businesses, schools and partnership agencies to help protect our communities. PCSOs have an in-depth knowledge of their local areas, and their familiarity with the public can help diffuse potentially threatening scenarios and alleviate tensions.
Speaking of the anniversary, Chief Constable John Campbell QPM said:
“Nearly 20 years on, our PCSOs continue to make a significant contribution to policing the in the Thames Valley. As part of our neighbourhood policing teams, PCSOs provide frontline support by working at the heart of our communities as the face of policing within the Thames Valley. Our PCSOs come from all walks of life, bringing strong and diverse skillsets that enable us to build trust and confidence within our communities.
As Chief Constable, I would like to extend my personal thanks to all of our PCSOs for their hard work and dedication over the last two decades. They continue to help protect our communities and allow us, as Thames Valley Police, to be at our best.”
To mark this occasion, we recently sat down with Sue, one of our longest serving PCSOs, and Ben, a newly serving PCSO on our apprenticeship, to reflect on the role of a PCSO, the impact they have on communities, and how the role has evolved.
Sue has been a PCSO for 15 and half years, joining TVP in 2001 at age 42 as a Station Duty Officer at Newbury Police Station Front Counter. She was responsible for the online store for a multimedia company before this.
Ben joined TVP as a PCSO at age 23 in July 2021, after working as a Hospital Porter where he transported patients and equipment around the hospital. Prior to that, he worked as a Supervisor at Marks & Spencer after completing a Level 3 qualification in Public Services at college.
Sue, has the role PCSOs play in communities evolved during your time at TVP?
The role of the PCSO has evolved greatly during my time in the force, and we take on every new challenge with enthusiasm. What hasn’t changed is that we continue to be the eyes and ears within the force. We are totally committed to our community, trusted and well-known because of our foot patrols and involvement with community groups. With this trust and contact we are able to develop important intelligence which in turn improves the community we serve. We are being relied on to give more and more support to our Police Officers.
What does your typical day look like?
Sue: There isn’t really a typical day as every day is different, you never know what you have in store. The day may start visiting the Homeless Drop-in Centre to engage with a part of our community who is at times, hard to reach, or a visit to a vulnerable person who may have been a victim of fraud. We might do foot patrols in the community focusing on areas which may have been highlighted as suffering from anti-social behaviour for instance. We regularly talk to members of the public, businesses and shops within the community. We visit local community gathering spaces such as Community Cafes, forming relationships with those who visit together with local partners who take part. We might give talks about local issues, such as scams, fraud and how to keep safe.
Ben: I totally agree with Sue here. One of the good things about being a PCSO is that you never know! I walk into work every day and could be doing anything, but it’s always good fun and keeps me on my toes.
Sue, what are the top skills required to be a good PCSO?
A genuine love of people, a good listener and communicator. A person with empathy and understanding. You must have the ability to work with partner agencies to achieve results and to problem solve. Honesty and integrity, and the ability to reach out and understand hard-to-reach groups within your community.
How do you feel you make a difference in your community?
Ben: I know I’m making a difference if people know where to go when they need help. I currently work in a rural Local Policing Area (LPA) and with this comes harder to reach communities, but building relationships with all kinds of residents can reassure people that I’m here if they need anything or have any kinds of issues.
Sue: Similar to Ben, I feel I am making a difference by being a visible and consistent presence in the communities I serve and becoming someone who people trust and rely on to share their concerns with. With that trust comes a faith in your ability to tackle local issues that matter to them.
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of the role?
Sue: The most rewarding part of the role is making a difference and improving the community I work in. I love seeing issues resolved through from beginning to end, and seeing the improvements they bring to people’s lives. Tackling street-based problems which could include anti-social behaviour, drug related crime, and coming up with solutions to tackle these issues can be challenging, but the outcome outweighs the process. Every situation can be a challenge, and every success is satisfying and gratifying.
Ben: The most rewarding part of being a PCSO is knowing that you can help someone every day. If you can come to work and make a difference, no matter how big or small, to at least one person’s life, you’ve succeeded.
Ben, what is different about you now, compared with when you started the role?
I have developed as an individual and being a PCSO has opened both my eyes and mind, whilst helping me become less naive and more grateful for what I have. Becoming a PCSO has opened me up to new experiences that I otherwise wouldn’t have had, and I want to help more and make as much of an impact as possible.
What are you most proud of?
Ben: I know it sounds corny, but I’m so proud to do this job and make a difference as part of the police. If you give your best in the job, you can make a real difference. I don’t go to a job and expect recognition, but I’m proud to tell my family and friends that I work for Thames Valley Police. It’s a fantastic job and I’d encourage anyone who’s thinking about it to give it a go.
Sue: That’s lovely, Ben! I also feel that I am an important, trusted and integral part of my community. To walk down my main street and it taking an hour instead of some minutes because so many people stop to talk. I received a Civic Award in recognition of my outstanding contribution to my town, and most recently I received the PCSO of the Year Award for Berkshire West; this has made me immensely proud as it was my community who voted for me. To feel that what I do matters and that I make a difference makes me feel immensely proud.
Feeling inspired? We’re currently open for PCSO recruitment across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. For more information, visit our PCSO page and begin your journey today.