PCSOs given power to detain suspects - but only if people comply

POLICE Community Support Officers have been given powers to detain suspects and stop and search people for alcohol but will be unable to use reasonable force in the process.

The powers have been introduced by Sussex Police chief constable Martin Richards after a survey of PCSOs in the county.

They will now be able to detain compliant suspects for up to 30 minutes until police arrive, disperse groups, search suspects for alcohol and tobacco and issue fines for dog fouling and general disorder.

But this will only properly work with people who are compliant as the officer will not be able to stop a suspect simply walking away.

The powers have been granted after the force held a Neighbourhood Policing Review with PCSOs from across the county.

One of the key requests was the desire to enhance their roles by increasing their powers.

This would enable them to be able to better deal with the issues that affect their communities and provide even more impact with more responsibility.

The five new powers are:

*Issuing penalty notices in respect of disorder; the power to detain a person whom a PCSO has reason to believe has committed a relevant offence who fails to comply with a requirement to give name and address or who gives an answer which the PCSO reasonably suspects to be false or inaccurate. They can be detained for up to 30 minutes for the arrival of a police officer.

*Dispersal of groups and removal of people under 16 to their place of residence.

*Search for alcohol and tobacco. This power would be relevant if persons fail to comply with either of the two existing powers, namely to require under-18s to surrender alcohol or for persons to stop drinking in designated no alcohol public areas.

*Issuing fixed penalty notices for dog fouling.

Councillor Phil Scott, the borough council’s lead member for the environment, said: “I welcome the opportunity for such a partnership working arrangement in the future.

“It could only help us as a local authority in continuing to take a robust approach to a number of anti-social behaviour activities such as tackling dog fouling and underage drinking on our streets.”

Bob Brown, Police Federation chairman for Sussex, said: “We support any measure that helps police officers carry out their jobs.

“PCSOs play a valuable role in intelligence gathering and provide a valuable support role for police.

“But these powers will only work with people who are compliant. What we really want to see are more police on our streets and not the cut backs we have seen in recent years.”