Civilian Officers May Get Police Powers

Article excerpt

CIVILIAN AGENTS would be given powers to perform roadside speed checks, breath tests and arrest shoplifters under proposals in a confidential report outlining the future of policing. Community support officers (CSOs) - civilians who work alongside the police after three weeks' training - could also hold identification parades, tackle noisy neighbours and run police stations.

A new squad of specialist firearms officers could also be established specifically to guard high-security targets such as the House of Commons and Buckingham Palace.

The radical proposals, in a draft report by Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, were condemned by rank-and- file police as a gimmick that would undermine the professionalism of policing.

There are 3,500 CSOs patrolling in England and Wales and a further 500 are being recruited. The officers do not have police powers and are paid pounds 18,000 a year, significantly less than a fully qualified police officer. The Inspectorate report, which is being sent to the Home Secretary, proposes a wholesale expansion in the role of civilian officers and calls for "significant and profound change" in the police system.

Sir Ronnie proposes giving CSOs limited powers of arrest and to allow them to make investigations. The report says this could include dealing with a simple shop theft in which a CSO could detain an alleged offender, investigate, and even take a suspect to a police station. …