Police concern over CSO ad camapign

POLICE chiefs fear a national campaign to recruit hundreds of community support officers is having no impact in Suffolk after it attracted just nine applicants.

By Danielle Nuttall

POLICE chiefs fear a national campaign to recruit hundreds of community support officers is having no impact in Suffolk after it attracted just nine applicants.

The Home Office sent out 170 recruitment packs to residents in Suffolk in a bid to sign up police community support officers (PCSOs), who will form part of the county's Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

But police bosses are concerned the national advertising campaign paints a “dark” and “hostile” image of policing and is putting off potential candidates.


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The force admitted it had received only nine applications as a result of the appeal and is now preparing to re-write to all those originally contacted in an attempt to entice more volunteers.

PCSOs are full-time paid positions which see employees patrolling communities to reassure the public as well as tackling low-level crime such as anti-social behaviour.

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Suffolk is required by the Government to recruit a total of 142 PCSOs by April next year and a further 74 by the end of March 2008.

The force has so far recruited 51 PCSOs through its own efforts but needs to find a further 91 by April.

Superintendent Chris Mayhew, neighbourhood policing project manager, told members of Suffolk Police Authority last week that the force was just about “keeping pace” with demand at present.

But he warned further locally-based recruitment initiatives needed to be launched to fill PCSO positions after Christmas, in light of the poor response from the Government's campaign.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “One of the Government's drives is to promote neighbourhood policing. PCSOs are an integral part of the teams and it's important we get the numbers we need.

“If we do not get them, there is a chance it will impact on Safer Neighbourhood Teams as if we fall short by 10, that's 10 people the people of Suffolk will not see on their streets.

“If we really failed to recruit the numbers on time, there is a chance Home Office funding will be clawed back.”

Recruitment in Suffolk of PCSOS has not been helped by a nation-wide advertising campaign run by the Home Office, according to police bosses.

Deputy Chief Constable Colin Langham-Fitt said: “It (the campaign) is talking about a more hostile world that we do not recognise as part of Suffolk.

“We feel the adverts are a bit dark and off-putting to some people and do not reflect the role we see of PCSOs working side by side by police.

“We felt the form was quite off-putting. It was a huge thick document that asked many questions and we thought it was putting people off.

“We have set them our own form and have got a much better take up.”

A Home Office spokesperson said during research of the recruitment campaign respondents, particularly those who would be most likely to apply, responded well to the illustrated routes.

“The adverts realistically portray the community and the challenging nature of the work a PCSO would be faced with.

“The advertising is designed to attract potential recruits who are prepared to engage with the community they work in and tackle the kind of low level anti-social behaviour that can blight people's lives.

“The advertising depicts this. The use of the 'Could You?' brand builds on previously successful police recruitment campaigns and emphasizes that PCSOs are a vital element of the wider policing family.”

Mr Mayhew said despite the recruitment problems, he was confident the full level of PCSOs would be found in Suffolk and said the force was stepping up its appeals.

Mr Langham-Fitt added: “If you do think you can do this job, don't be put off by the advert - we are talking about Suffolk, one of the safest counties in the country. If you think you have the qualities, drop us a line or pick up an application form.”

Anyone interested in becoming a PCSO should call Suffolk police's recruitment line on 01473 613640 or write to Recruitment, Police Headquarters, Martlesham Heath, Ipswich, IP5 3QS.

Alternatively, application forms are available from local police stations.

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