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Celebrating 20 years of Police Community Support Officers

This year, Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) celebrate 20 years of delivering neighbourhood policing.

On 24 July 2002, the Police Reform Act introduced the PCSO role, and they have played an integral part in neighbourhood policing ever since.

This anniversary allows us to celebrate the importance of the PCSO role and recognise the value it brings in helping to protect communities.

At Thames Valley Police (TVP), our first PCSOs started in Oxfordshire in 2003, and they continue to be an integral part of communities ever since.

Based in local areas, PCSOs provide a crucial police presence. Primarily through targeted visible patrol, they deter anti-social behaviour, provide reassurance, gather intelligence and work with businesses, schools and partnership agencies to help protect our communities. PCSOs have an in-depth knowledge of their local areas, and their familiarity with the public can help diffuse potentially threatening scenarios and alleviate tensions.

Speaking of the anniversary, Chief Constable John Campbell QPM said:

“Nearly 20 years on, our PCSOs continue to make a significant contribution to policing the in the Thames Valley. As part of our neighbourhood policing teams, PCSOs provide frontline support by working at the heart of our communities as the face of policing within the Thames Valley. Our PCSOs come from all walks of life, bringing strong and diverse skillsets that enable us to build trust and confidence within our communities.

As Chief Constable, I would like to extend my personal thanks to all of our PCSOs for their hard work and dedication over the last two decades. They continue to help protect our communities and allow us, as Thames Valley Police, to be at our best.”

To mark this occasion, we recently sat down with Sue, one of our longest serving PCSOs, and Ben, a newly serving PCSO on our apprenticeship, to reflect on the role of a PCSO, the impact they have on communities, and how the role has evolved.

Sue has been a PCSO for 15 and half years, joining TVP in 2001 at age 42 as a Station Duty Officer at Newbury Police Station Front Counter. She was responsible for the online store for a multimedia company before this.

Ben joined TVP as a PCSO at age 23 in July 2021, after working as a Hospital Porter where he transported patients and equipment around the hospital. Prior to that, he worked as a Supervisor at Marks & Spencer after completing a Level 3 qualification in Public Services at college.

Sue, has the role PCSOs play in communities evolved during your time at TVP?

The role of the PCSO has evolved greatly during my time in the force, and we take on every new challenge with enthusiasm. What hasn't changed is that we continue to be the eyes and ears within the force. We are totally committed to our community, trusted and well-known because of our foot patrols and involvement with community groups. With this trust and contact we are able to develop important intelligence which in turn improves the community we serve. We are being relied on to give more and more support to our Police Officers.

What does your typical day look like?

Sue: There isn't really a typical day as every day is different, you never know what you have in store. The day may start visiting the Homeless Drop-in Centre to engage with a part of our community who is at times, hard to reach, or a visit to a vulnerable person who may have been a victim of fraud. We might do foot patrols in the community focusing on areas which may have been highlighted as suffering from anti-social behaviour for instance. We regularly talk to members of the public, businesses and shops within the community. We visit local community gathering spaces such as Community Cafes, forming relationships with those who visit together with local partners who take part. We might give talks about local issues, such as scams, fraud and how to keep safe.

Ben: I totally agree with Sue here. One of the good things about being a PCSO is that you never know! I walk into work every day and could be doing anything, but it’s always good fun and keeps me on my toes.

Sue, what are the top skills required to be a good PCSO?

A genuine love of people, a good listener and communicator. A person with empathy and understanding. You must have the ability to work with partner agencies to achieve results and to problem solve. Honesty and integrity, and the ability to reach out and understand hard-to-reach groups within your community.

How do you feel you make a difference in your community?

Ben: I know I’m makin