It’s important to preface any examination of a ‘typical day’ as a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) with the reminder that the role responsibilities are remarkably varied. The role is interpreted, empowered, and utilised in different ways across each individual constabulary, which is reflected in a number of ways, from the different powers invested with PCSOs by a Chief Constable, to the uniforms that they wear during the course of duty. For example, some PCSOs carry handcuffs and others do not. Communities will have individual needs that you will need to tailor yourself to – a normal day for a town based officer will be noticeably different from that of a rural based officer. This necessity to adapt to ever-changing situations, demands, and challenges is one of the most rewarding elements of the role.
Equally, there are some key core functions that will always be a constant for any officer. The primary function of a PCSO that transcends all policing borders is the localised contact and familiar police presence that they provide on a daily basis. This channel of communication between the police and the local community is often achieved through high visibility patrolling (normally on foot or bicycle), engaging with residents and businesses about emerging issues or concerns, and attendance at key community groups. Other central aspects of the role can include development of community-based projects, the provision of crime prevention and safety advice, and also the employment of problem-solving techniques to resolve low-level incidents that have been referred to you from within the extended policing family.Being a PCSO gives officers continued contact with a particular geographical area so they will often be the first to identify trends in social issues, crime, and anti-social behaviour, as well as more vulnerable members of the community that may require additional support.
As a specialist in a particular community, you are expected to gain vital intelligence that will support the wider policing function, and you will be required to liaise extensively with residents, businesses, and other partner agencies to gain detailed information. The knowledge that you obtain from speaking with people as a PCSO could be crucial in detecting or preventing an offence. Equally your presence may prevent an offence from occurring and offers a considerable amount of public reassurance. All of these activities outlined above can comprise the basis for a typical day as a PCSO, but you may also be presented with something totally unexpected that you have never previously encountered.
There are many elements to the PCSO role that make it a truly outstanding career to pursue. The team ethos within the policing environment is exceptional and the limitless support from colleagues is a true testament to the people that work within the police service, whatever their position. Having personal ownership for a particular community is my favourite aspect of the role as it allows you to develop strong associations with local residents and businesses. You will often be the recognised face of policing for many residents and they will appreciate your presence and assistance: you have a unique opportunity with the role to break down barriers between the police and communities. There is also the potential to develop entirely new ideas and imaginative solutions to problems. Witnessing these self-generated ideas develop and flourish into long term community projects is incredibly rewarding, and you certainly finish each shift knowing that you have made a difference to your particular community.
Personally, I viewed the PCSO role as an excellent opportunity to engage with a diverse range of people, contribute to the development and growth of local communities, whilst also working to address problems that were affecting people from a policing perspective. Having always been passionate about a career within the police service, I felt it could offer unique experiences and challenges, allow me to help others, whilst also being immensely rewarding and stimulating.
I also found the theoretical side of policing and criminal justice extremely interesting and I relished the chance to gain practical experience in the policing field. My career as a PCSO has delivered all of these things and immeasurably more.