Examination of Witnesses (Questions 580
THURSDAY 21 MARCH 2002
DENHAM MP AND
580. Would that make a significant difference
in London in particular?
(Mr Denham) I think it could make a significant difference
in many different parts of the country, to be honest. I had the
privilege last year of presenting the Ferrers Awards, which is
the annual awards to specials, and you had from London and other
parts of the country examples of specials tackling real local
problems very, very effectively. One police officer in London
had sorted out a problem in a street market and had largely eliminated
the petty crime which had been taking place there. Another special
had done superb diversionary youth work on difficult estates in
Northumberland. They have got a key role to play.
581. You do not think we could reach the sort
of Police Federation numbers? They are looking at 32,500 specials
by next year.
(Mr Denham) I think it is very unlikely we could reach
that sort of number in that sort of period of time. It would be
great to think we had that number of people coming forward. I
think we will need to do more to revamp the image of the specials,
we will need to do more work with forces to make sure their recruitment
and their induction is very good and that the specials are well-supported
and deployed on interesting and challenging jobs. I do not think
we can achieve that in that sort of timescale, but the sense of
direction is absolutely right.
582. Just continuing that point, we all agree
the specials do a grand job, would you agree with me however that
the pool of volunteers in society generally for all the things
we look for volunteers to do is declining and therefore you are
competing in a diminishing pool?
(Mr Denham) I do not know whether it is true the number
of volunteers are declining. What I do believe though is that
there is potentially a much bigger pool of people who would join
the specials than we have yet managed to tap into. I think we
need to get the message across much more clearly that almost any
community that has successfully tackled crime has required local
people living in it to stand up and say, "We have had enough
of this." Being a special is not the only way of doing that,
you could do it through residents groups and community groups,
but it is a particular way of doing it and, for a variety of reasons,
I think that message has been lost over recent years and I think
we need to revive it.
583. In the same way as the Ministry of Defence
has a scheme for employers of territorials, is there also a case
for the Home Office to look at a similar scheme for employers
encouraging staff to become specials?
(Mr Denham) Yes there is. It is an unfortunate question
because you have just asked about something which we are going
to do, so I have now revealed it, and there you go. It is slightly
different with the TA because you give people time off and long
weekends and all those sorts of things, but I do think we could
do a lot more with employers to support them in encouraging their
employees to join.
Bob Russell: I am delighted, Chairman, to help
shape Government policy.
Chairman: Community Support Officers next.
584. I would like to ask about Community Support
Officers and their powers, but could I start off by asking you
whether they are going to be an optional extra, if you like, for
police authorities or are they going to be a compulsory introduction?
Will the funding for them be ring-fenced in part of the police
(Mr Denham) The Bill makes it clear it is for the
chief officer to decide whether he or she wishes to have Community
Support Officers as part of their force. Clause 34 of the Bill
provides no mechanism for forcing a chief officer to take that
585. In my own borough, for example, there are
already Community Wardens employed by the Council, and their function
is to patrol local areas and be the eyes and ears of the police
force, albeit only between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon,
which perhaps is not the optimum time for finding criminals, but
they do have a useful function to perform. Would you agree that
if there was then another layer of Community Support Officers
there would be likely confusion amongst members of the public
as to the role of all these individuals?
(Mr Denham) No, I do not think so. Certainly being
able to co-operate even more closely with the neighbourhood and
street wardens and similar non-police groups is very important,
and I think the accreditation system which we set out in the Bill
will be very useful in enabling those people to be drawn together
as part of the extended police family. I know it is the view of
the Metropolitan Police, who have particularly been keen on Community
Support Officers, that there is a role for a new type of police
employee carrying out a range of patrolling duties, and provided
uniform and things of that sort are sorted out sensibly there
should be no difficulty in the public identifying who is doing
what. Most neighbourhood and street warden schemes I have come
across have a very distinctive dress but it is usually very casual
dresstypically a sweatshirt or something of that sort -
and we are talking really about an insignia they would carry if
they are an accredited person working with the police. I think
we would anticipate that Community Support Officers would be more
like traffic wardens in terms of their public visibility, ie distinctively
uniformed but distinctively not police officers.
586. Can I press a little further on the distinction
between the powers to detain and the powers of arrest. It is proposed
that Community Support Officers will have the power to detain
for disorderly conduct for a period of 30 minutes. The power to
detain without the power to arrest is something which the police
do not have at the moment. Can you foresee difficult circumstances
arising where somebody who is behaving in a disorderly manner
in public is detained for 30 minutes, which I think would be quite
a difficult thing to do anyway, but at the end of that period,
what happens? Presumably a fully qualified police officer will
have to be summoned in order to make an arrest at the end of that
period, or would they then have to let the person go? Are they
going to have to declare at the moment of detention that it will
only be for a period of 30 minutes?
(Mr Denham) This is obviously a very important point.
What we have tried to do in the Bill is to set out as clearly
as possible the roles and powers of Community Support Officers.
The legal position is quite interesting in that every single one
of us here has the power of arrest under the Police and Criminal
Evidence Act, we have the power under section 3 of the Criminal
Law Act of 1967 to use reasonable force to prevent a crime, and
we have a common law right to arrest people to prevent a breach
of the peace. So I suppose you could have approached Community
Support Officers by saying, "Let's just employ these people
and train them up in their civilian powers of arrest and using
reasonable force." I think that would have been regarded
by most people as unsatisfactory as an approach. What we have
tried to say on the face of the Bill is, "This is the role
we expect these people to be carrying out." Clearly nobody,
certainly not the police chiefs we have talked to, would intend
deploying Community Support Officers by sending them out to catch
people, to use the 30 minute power of detention, and then get
a police officer along, but it is obviously the case that in the
course of their duties the need to detain somebody may arise.
What we had to look at was, what is a reasonable length of detention
and should you go as far as giving the power of arrest. Our view
is that the power of arrest has a whole series of consequences,
somebody is taken to a police station, they are booked into custody,
they are interviewed following that and may well be charged; quite
a long and important process is triggered by the power of arrest.
Our view is that that is something which should be exercised by
a fully sworn constable, which is why we want a constable to attend.
So you have I think to give the CSO a more limited power, and
that is why we have settled on 30 minutes and the ability to use
reasonable force. We have had some representations to make that
period of time longer and there clearly is a balance to be struck
between the length of time for which somebody can be detained
and the reasonable expectation there would be that a police officer
would be able to attend. Our view at the moment is that 30 minutes
would appear to be a reasonable balance between the operational
realities of getting a police officer to attend if summoned by
the CSO and the desirability of not putting too long an extension
of time for detention on the face of the Bill. We have developed
this whole approach very closely with the Metropolitan Police
Service in particular. I am glad we have done that because it
will be chief officers who are responsible for the training and
the deployment of these staff and therefore for training them
on how to handle themselves in circumstances when they might use
587. Would you like to elaborate on the term
"reasonable force"? It is quite a subjective term, is
(Mr Denham) This is one where I think I should rely
on the lawyers. The term "reasonable force" is used
elsewhere in law. I would strongly suspect that it has been tested
in the courts in the past. What we have used is precisely the
same formulation here as applies to police officers in the course
of their duties, but I would be happy to follow that up, Chairman,
if it would be helpful to come back to the Committee on how that
term may have been interpreted by the courts in the past.
Chairman: Thank you.
588. The purpose of the period of 30 minutes
is to enable a police officer to attend?
(Mr Denham) To enable a police officer to attend and
take the final decision as to whether the individual should be
arrested and taken into custody.
589. Assuming being a Community Support Officer
will be a full-time post, can you speculate as to what sort of
person will be attracted to that and why they would not wish to
be a fully-fledged police officer?
(Mr Denham) There may, of course, be some who will
go into the job to get to know the Police Service, to decide if
they do want to apply to be a police officer, but the role of
the CSO, with its emphasis on patrolling, assisting the police,
dealing with minor disorder issues, is substantially of a very
different nature from the full responsibilities of a police officer.
A police officer would be routinely called upon in road traffic
accidents, armed incidents, sudden death, public order disputes,
dealing with serious violent criminal gangs, a whole range of
activities which make a police officer's job a difficult and dangerous
job, and they fall outside the functions for which people want
the Community Support Officer, for which the Police Service in
London has argued. I think there will be a set of people who do
not feel able to take on or want to take on the full responsibilities
of a police constable but nonetheless will want to work with the
Police Service as part of the reassurance and public presence
of that service to the public.
590. One of the proposals is to give Community
Support Officers the powers to deal with, for example, somebody
who drops litter but not the theft of a mobile phone, for example,
which would be an arrestable offence. What does the term "deal
with" mean? How would you interpret that?
(Mr Denham) What we have done in the legislation is
to give CSOs specific powers which relate, sometimes to measures
in this Bill but primarily to established legal powers, for example,
fixed penalty notices for littering and dog fouling and so on,
and the legal powers of the CSO apply to those pieces of legislation.
So "deal with" in the narrow legal sense means they
would have fixed penalty notice powers over, for example, dog
fouling or littering or whatever. We would also expect CSOs to
be able to do a wide range of other activities which would be
useful in support of the police as well as issuing fixed penalty
591. Could you say something about the planned
training for CSOs? Would it be, for example, a different course
at police college or would they be trained in police stations?
How do you envisage that taking place?
(Mr Denham) The new Central Police Training and Development
Agency, which comes into being in early April this year, will
be looking very much at the training requirements for CSOs. It
is a little too early, I think, to set out in detail precisely
how that training is going to be provided. People obviously have
to be trained in how to use these powers we have been discussing,
in first aid, in safety, in their anti-social behaviour role.
We would expect them to be able to act as professional witnesses,
for example, a very important role because often local residents
are unwilling to come forward. There is the whole agenda of the
Lawrence Inquiry, of diversity, of understanding the needs of
different communities and so on, all that will have to be covered,
but it is too early I think to say exactly how it will be delivered.
We will need to work very closely with the Police Service because
I think the fundamental thing to recognise here is that the chief
constables will be as responsible for the conduct, well-being,
training and deployment of CSOs as they are for police officers,
and I think the chief constables will want to assure themselves
that the training is adequate to produce the people who are going
to have this job.
Angela Watkinson: Thank you very much.
592. There has not been a lot of support for
CSOs, has there?
(Mr Denham) It is primarily from the Metropolitan
Police. They are the people who came forward with the idea in
the early summer and pushed very strongly for this and, I do not
mind saying, persuaded us this is the right way forward. I think
the events of 11 September, when the Metropolitan Police Service
had to put thousands of people on the streets to reassure the
public in patrolling rolesa job which many police officers
found deeply frustrating after the novelty wore off because they
are trained, professional police officers, they did not primarily
join up for walking around Westminster and Canary Wharf reassuring
the publicconvinced them that roles like that could be
played by the CSOs to free up the police for other activities
which are obviously important. But there are other forces which
are now talking about CSOs in the future. Whilst a handful of
people have declared outright opposition to the idea, I think
the majority of the Police Service wants to see how the Metropolitan
Police and one or two other places get on with it and learn from
593. So the likely scenario is that they will
be piloted in London?
(Mr Denham) I think London. I understand that Surrey
and Northamptonshire are the other two forces which have expressed
an interest, but I do not think they have committed themselves
to do it in the way Sir John Stevens has done in London.
594. On the powers of detention, which is the
one where most of the concerns have been raised, this 30 minutes,
where did the 30 minutes come from?
(Mr Denham) Discussions essentially with the Police
Service to try and set the right balance between what I think
would be quite difficult, which would be to give an untime-limited
power of detention using reasonable force until whenever a police
officer got there, and having a time period which was so short
that operationally you could not reasonably expect a police officer
595. Discussions with the Police Service?
(Mr Denham) Yes.
596. That is a bit odd because most of the Police
Service seem to be against the whole idea.
(Mr Denham) The Metropolitan Police in particular
have worked most closely with us on the development of the CSO
597. Right. The Police Superintendents asked,
"What happens at 31 minutes?"
(Mr Denham) If the time limit runs out, the time limit
runs out, so you would normally expect the person to be released.
There is an issue, as I mentioned earlier, of the wider citizen's
powers which exist in common law and in some legislation anyway,
but I am very anxious not to encourage the idea that the main
aim of these people is to be trained up to use a citizen's powers
of arrest. We have tried to prescribe the role of the CSO in a
fairly limited manner quite deliberately.
598. The Federation say, "Giving CSOs the
power to detain by force but not to arrest would therefore be
a new power which not even police officers currently have."
(Mr Denham) Police officers have the power to arrest,
which is the reason why the law was constructed in that way. The
question really is, do we want these people to be able to exercise
the full powers of arrest in the course of their normal employment.
Our judgment is that the role which is conceived for them is one
where that would be taking their powers too far, further than
we intend and further than those who want to have CSOs want to
go in deploying them.
599. The Chairman of the Police Authorities'
Association said, "I could see grave problems if a non-police
officer had a power of detention. I could see all sorts of flash
point situations arising which would in the end cause more police
time to be wasted by the police having to come and deal with these
problems." What do you say to that?
(Mr Denham) I would say to that that the chief officer
of the force which deploys the CSOs is responsible for the way
in which they exercise their power and training. I think we can
be reasonably assured that chief officers who decide to have CSOs
on their force will make sure they are deployed in ways where
the powers are effectively used. No chief officer is going to
encourage a set of CSOs to be out there getting themselves into
difficulty and tying down the time of police officers. Some of
the discussion, frankly, about this has been as though the CSOs
will be employed and then unleashed on a town or city to wander
the streets doing what on earth they want as though there are
no constraints over their powers. I really do not think that is
going to happen. These are accountable members of the Police Service.
9 See Appendix, Ev 165. Back