The possible effect of changes to the role of the PCSO on visible policing across Sussex was top of the agenda for members of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel this week.
The Panel, which supports and scrutinises the work of Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, met on Monday (4 July) to discuss issues, the annual report and preparation of the Police and Crime Plan for 2017- 2021.
The Panel focussed on changes that came into force on the day of the meeting and give PSCOs in Sussex additional powers to allow them to deal with antisocial behaviour caused by alcohol, take statements and carry out some investigation work.
“Many of the Panel members, particularly those from rural locations around Sussex, felt that in their previous role PCSOs offered reassurance to their communities by building up a rapport and being a visible link between the police and public,” said Cllr Brad Watson, Sussex Police and Crime Panel chairman. “There was concern that the new model would cause this link to be lost.”
But speaking at the meeting, Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne reassured the Panel that the changes gave communities a better service and improved resilience, with PCSOs equipped with smartphone technology and ready to go to where the need is greatest.
She said the new model was a result of changes in how crime is committed and a clear message from the public that they value the role of PCSO but were frustrated that, when officers are on leave or not on shift, there was no one to contact.
Mrs Bourne said she would continue to challenge the chief constable based on the questions and concerns raised by members of the public and the Panel. Chairman Cllr Watson asked the Commissioner to bring an update on neighbourhood policing model back to the Panel.
Presenting her annual report, Katy Bourne highlighted successes including the launch of Safe Space Sussex - an online directory of support services in Sussex, investment in a hate crime reporting app to encourage people to report incidents to a third party and grants totalling £280,000 for 52 local project tackling crime and improving community safety.
The Panel Chairman asked the Commissioner for an update on new legislation under which she had a duty to collaborate with the fire and rescue service to identify whether combining services was efficient, effective and in the public interest.
Mrs Bourne said she will be beginning discussions with leaders of the fire service in east and west Sussex and would share the business case with the Panel once this had been drawn up.
Following discussions, the Panel recommended that Iain McCulloch be appointed to the position of Chief Financial Officer for the office of Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner.
“We would like to thank Carl Rushbridge for his support and efforts and wish him well for the future,” said Cllr Watson. “And we look forward to working with Iain McCulloch in the future.”
The next Sussex Police and Crime Panel meeting will be held on Friday 23 September at County Hall in Lewes.