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Logo | The Police Advisor
  • Writer's pictureAndy Oldham

PCs, PCSOs, what's the difference?

What’s the difference between police officers and PCSOs? What powers do PCSOs have, what uniform do they wear, and what roles do they undertake?

Quite often you'll see PCSOs out and about, or on news reports where police are carrying out enquiries or standing on a cordon somewhere. Most people don't notice, but there are some key differences.

The role of Police Community Support Officer was created by the Labour government in 2002, with the first PCSOs being recruited and deployed by London's Metropolitan Police that same year. PCSOs are not police officers, they are police staff, and the legislation that created the role specifically limited the powers designated to them, in order to maintain the distinction.

The original idea was to provide a role which would support police officers in their neighbourhoods, providing reassurance patrols, long term problem solving in communities, building relationships, enhancing trust in the police, and understanding local issues, crime trends and criminals in order to reduce crime and anti social behaviour and improve the lives of people living in those communities.

Since their inception, the role has evolved and their powers have been amended. PCSOs now can be found carrying out other roles such as dealing with minor offences, crowd control, staffing police cordons and directing traffic.

Some force also allow their PCSOs to specialise - for example joining roads policing teams.

PCSOs wear similar uniforms although usually they have blue shirts rather than black, and their epaulettes will also be blue.

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