Examination of Witnesses (Questions 600
THURSDAY 21 MARCH 2002
DENHAM MP AND
600. But one can see them getting into all sorts
of scraps and then ringing up the police in the hope of being
bailed out but nobody being available. Indeed, one could see a
sort of surly indifference on the part of some police officers
if certain CSOs got into trouble.
(Mr Denham) I have confidence in the professionalism
of police officers, even if some have reservations about this
development, that they would not react in that sort of way. Traffic
wardens could potentially be like this. Very similar arguments
in fact were deployed almost word for word in some cases about
the introduction of traffic wardens in 1961, about the relationship
with the police being changed, they would get themselves into
trouble, police officers would spend all of their time rescuing
traffic wardens. On occasion, it has to be said traffic wardens
do get into trouble, but I do not think anybody would say that
the general experience is that the Police Service spend all their
time going round helping out traffic wardens.
601. So if a CSO detains a drunk who is causing
a bit of mayhem somewhere at 11.30 at night, he hangs on to him
for 30 minutes and no one shows up, what happens at 31 minutes?
(Mr Denham) Going back earlier in your questionand
fortunately these are not operational decisions for ministers,
they are there for police officersI somehow doubt that
a CSO would normally be out patrolling on their own at 11.30 on
a Friday night. It is perhaps possible that CSOs would be out
with police officers in town centres at that time as part of a
well-organised presence on the streets.
602. So you foresee there will be joint patrols,
as it were?
(Mr Denham) Yes, I can. Clearly in some circumstances
that would not be the case, and patrolling and reassurance and
anti-terrorism security-type work, which we have seen and enjoyed
around Westminster over recent months and in Canary Wharf, could
well be done by CSOs operating on their own. There might be other
circumstances, and this is not for me to determine but at the
discretion of the chief constable, where they would actually be
working with police officers. In some parts of the Bill it is
quite clear that has to be the case, as in the terrorism part
of the Bill.
603. I suppose there is nothing to stop, once
the 30 minutes is up, a CSO starting the clock again, is there?
(Mr Denham) I will look at the Bill. I do not think
it does that, Chairman, but I will look at it, as you raise the
604. There is a lot of head-shaking going on
(Mr Denham) I am very relieved to hear it. I, of course,
cannot see the shaking heads but you can. It is an interesting
question which has not been previously raised and I will go away
and have a look at that.
605. May I put it to you, in view of the quantity
of scepticism certainly on this 30 minutes, it might be worth
thinking about a little further?
(Mr Denham) We will consider the representations we
have got. Certainly one or two rural forces have said that 30
minutes is not so long in a rural area and it could be longer.
We will continue to consider it. I have to say, I do think we
have to get the balance right between what would be a publicly
acceptable power of detention by people who are not police officers
and the operational side of being able to provide the support.
My feeling at the moment is that we have the balance right. My
instinct is to be quite worried if we were to envisage a circumstance
where somebody might be so far away from the police officer with
whom they are working, it could be a couple of hours before somebody
turns up to complete the process. Of course, we will continue
to listen to the representations, at the moment I see no reason
to change the position we have got.
606. Just to pursue the point, there is no question
of whoever obliging forces to take on CSOs?
(Mr Denham) The legislation I think is pretty clear.
607. At the moment, yes. There is not even a
gleam in your eye?
(Mr Denham) The chief constable has to take the decision
according to the legislation. I do not know if there are nodding
or shaking heads behind me.
David Winnick: They are leaving you to it actually,
608. So you do not envisage any circumstances
in which a day will dawn when we oblige chief constables to take
(Mr Denham) I can say what this Bill does, and this
part of the Bill says chief constables take the decision.
609. There is a problem with this new force
commanding the respect of the public, is there not? The sort of
communities which are crying out for a uniformed presence are
those which usually have problems with anti-social behaviour and
ill-disciplined, persistent and defiant behaviour among adolescents,
and police officers rightly say to me that they have enough trouble
commanding respect with some of these people, and what would be
seen as an inferior force would just be laughed at.
(Mr Denham) Two things. One is that I have been very
struck by the success of neighbourhood wardens employed by local
authorities in some of the types of communities you are talking
about, people who are there who spend the vast majority of their
working day out in the community with the ability to stop to people,
to talk to people, to get to know people but also to gather information
about what is going on. Yes, obviously, there is always a hard
core who will not respond to that, but I think the ability to
have a patrolling presence which gets to know a community has
already been demonstrated to work by people working for local
authorities, and I am confident that people working for the police
can do that. I would also make the point that if you have communities
which have such problems that they need more intensive input from
the police, the ability within a Police Service to give reassurance
in other areas by CSOs and to use your police resources more effectively
in these areas is clearly a bonus. If you have forces at the moment
which are stretched in every direction, despite the record number
of police officers we have and the increase over the last few
years, and you are trying to provide a presence everywhere, you
are not necessarily able to concentrate in the way you would like
on persistent offenders in the higher crime areas. So I think
it does add a flexibility to police deployment.
610. Will the funding of CSOs be out of general
police authorities' budgets?
(Mr Denham) The general answer would be yes, but there
is nothing to preclude funding CSOs in other ways.
611. Is it likely police authorities will have
to apply for money to fund CSOs specifically?
(Mr Denham) To be perfectly honest, I think firstly
it is far too early to say and, secondly, no one can say what
the situation will be in five or ten years' time. At the moment
police authorities receive ring-fenced money for police officers,
as you know, which has been one of the reasons why we have had
a record increase in police officers. A few years ago that was
not the pattern. Although we do not have any particular plans
to do what you say, there is nothing in the Bill which affects
that one way or the other.
612. There could be a danger that if it was
ring-fenced money then authorities would be forced into using
CSOs when they would prefer to have more police officers but not
as many CSOs.
(Mr Denham) I can certainly understand those concerns
but I come back to the point, the section of the Bill clearly
says it is the chief constable who has to decide whether he wishes
to have these CSOs.
613. Is there not a danger of having a two-tier
arrangement where people will phone the police but instead of
which they will get a CSO? So we go down the road where at the
end of the day before you see the police you first see the CSO?
(Mr Denham) I do not think so but I do think, if you
look at the Bill in the wider sense, there are some circumstances
which we cover in the Bill where the person you want to see first
is not necessarily a police officer. One of the reasons for strengthening
the powers of civilian investigators and scene-of-crime officers
is that there are circumstances where the first person you want
to get round is somebody who is a skilled investigator who can
make sure they get the DNA samples and the other scientific evidence
properly. I think what many forces want to do is to be able to
have the person with the right skills, including appropriate police
powers, to be round there quickly to get the evidence, rather
than send somebody round a few hours later and then the person
you really want 24 hours after that. So the ability to deploy
the people working for the Police Service flexibly is a very important
one, but I do not envisage any sort of routine system where you
always see a CSO before you see a police officer, far from it.
614. To some extent your answer has more or
less confirmed my suspicions, as well as obviously the Police
Federation's, that the CSO would be seen as a deputy police officer,
obviously not a police officer in any legal sense. When my constituents
ring up, as they often do, and in so many parts of the country
it is the same pattern, complaining about what has happened, it
will be a CSO they will get or be asked to contact and not a police
(Mr Denham) Two things. One is, I do not believe that
is what anybody has in mind to set up here, and I do not think
that is what we have in mind. Secondly, with record numbers of
police officers, and we will have over 130,000 by this time next
year, on any conceivable scale of expansion of CSOs there will
be vastly more police officers than Community Support Officers
for a very, very long time to come. Let us not forget that over
the past few years there has been an expansion of support officers
in the Police Service who are not police officers, that has been
very useful, it has helped to free up the time of police officers
to spend their time on the duties which we and the public want
to see them on, and nobody has said that is about a two-tier Police
615. Those are auxiliaries who are likely to
be employed doing desk jobs in police stations, administrative
jobs. The difference with CSOs is that they could be front-line
(Mr Denham) Yes, they could be front-line and we want
to make additional use of civilians in detention jobs and scene-of-crime
jobs and so on as part of this Bill. I just cannot envisage a
future, I have to say, where your routine first contact with the
Police Service has to be with a CSO rather than with a police
officer, because I do not think that fits the role being allocated
for CSOs within the Bill or indeed what the Police Service will
want to do with CSOs.
616. The real test will come, where CSOs are
employed, in whether there is any reduction in street criminality
or those responsible, or allegedly responsible, being apprehended
quicker. That is the real test of it all, is it not?
(Mr Denham) And whether the public's fear of crime
is reduced and whether we are more effective in gathering information
on people perpetrating anti-social behaviour so we can introduce
anti-social behaviour orders, whether the links with local authorities
to deal with abandoned vehicles and that sort of thing improves,
so we do not have streets with burnt-out, abandoned vehicles which
make people feel scared even if there is no crime in the street.
The CSOs add a capacity to deal with those sorts of things with
other agencies which actually it is difficult for the Police Service
to give the priority to at the moment which people would like.
617. Thank you. A few miscellaneous matters
before we wind up, mainly on things which are not in the Bill.
(Mr Denham) The things you would have put in the Bill
if you had been here.
Chairman: Not at all, they are just gentle enquiries.
618. The first one is one which the Metropolitan
Police would have liked to have seen in the Bill, and that is
the provision to allow the police force to recover the cost of
policing arising from private commercial activities like night
clubs and bars. Have you considered that and, if you did, why
is it not in there?
(Mr Denham) The White Paper which we published before
Christmas set out the Government's policy position quite clearly,
that in principle there are areas of activities like, broadly,
entertainment businesses which give rise to police costs where
we would like more money going to the Police Service. There are
some imaginative schemes up and down the country on a voluntary
basis with night clubs which are funding police officers. No final
decisions have been taken in the months since the White Paper
about how such a scheme might work or what it should cover and
whatever. Clearly we need to make sure we have it right but it
is an issue of Government policy which we are certainly interested
619. So it might be revisited in later legislation?
(Mr Denham) In terms of Government policy, it is an
area we would like to address, but it is also quite a complex
area. It is one thing to say, "It would be great if there
was more money coming to the police to cover the cost of policing
a town centre on a Friday night", but it is another matter
designing a scheme which would actually work.
10 See Appendix, Ev 166. Back