Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

More Powers for Support Officers

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

More Powers for Support Officers

Article excerpt

Byline: By Zoe Hughes

The Government's army of community support officers should be able to detain suspects in a bid to create a police force fit for the 21st Century, Home Secretary David Blunkett has demanded.

Announcing wide-ranging reforms to the way police chiefs will operate across the North in future, Mr Blunkett yesterday called on forces to back plans to give civilian wardens a minimum set of powers.

This would ensure they have the power to detain suspects for up to 30 minutes without a police officer being present.

His call came as he outlined his policing White Paper to the Commons giving the public guaranteed minimum standards of service, a new non-emergency three digit telephone number and the power of communities to demand action from police forces.

However, it was his drive to introduce a minimum set of powers for his controversial community support officers that caused some concern among police chiefs in the region.

The plans to give all uniformed civilians ( dubbed by some as Blunkett's bouncers ( the power to demand names and addresses, confiscate alcohol and issue fixed penalty notices for certain offences, were greeted with caution by police chiefs.

At present it is up to police chiefs to allocate powers, but under Mr Blunkett's initiative, all community wardens would be given a minimum set.

Forces would also be encouraged to give CSOs the right to detain individuals for 30 minutes before a police officer arrives.

Yesterday, Northumbria Chief Constable Crispian Strachan urged caution in the Home Secretary's plans.

He said more time should be given to piloting the scheme to ensure the public were given "the best mix and style of powers" available.

He said: "They are very much in the community, very practical people and welcomed by local people who see them as on the streets and the reassurance that brings.

"I would urge, though, there needs to be longer experimentation time with this to determine, on an evidence basis, the best mix and style of powers so that we truly get this right. …

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