News story

Police volunteers and staff powers consultation launched

Home Secretary announces proposals for extra powers for police staff and volunteers

Today (Wednesday 9 September), the Home Secretary launched a consultation into proposed changes to powers held by police staff and volunteers at the Lord Ferrers awards, the national awards for volunteers in policing.

The consultation, which lasts until 31 October, proposes reforming the roles of police staff and volunteers so that they can play a greater role in policing our communities.

Since 1831, volunteer Special Constables have held all of the powers of a constable - whereas Police Support Volunteers have held none. Designated police staff, including Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), have those powers set out in the Police Reform Act 2002. PCSOs’ role is primarily one of engaging with the public, but they can also have powers to issue fixed penalty notices, confiscate alcohol or tobacco from minors and detain those suspected of a range of offences for thirty minutes to await a police officer.

Part of this package of reforms proposes enabling volunteers to be designated with powers in the same way as staff, allowing them to work more closely with their policing colleagues to keep their communities safe. Lincolnshire Police have already appointed a number of Volunteer PCSOs, who work alongside their full-time colleagues to keep their communities safe; while they currently do not have coercive powers, this shows there is demand from some police forces for volunteers to perform these roles.

The proposals include:

  • Creating a list of ‘core’ police powers – including arrest and stop and search - that would remain exclusive to police officers
  • Enabling chief officers to designate a wider range of powers on police staff and volunteers
  • Enabling volunteers to be designated with powers in the same way as staff
  • Abolishing the role of traffic warden under the Road Traffic Acts

Home Secretary Theresa May said:

Police officers across the country carry out a wide range of duties, keeping the public safe and ensuring justice for the most vulnerable members of society. We value the essential role they play, but they cannot do this on their own. I believe volunteers can do more, helping forces to create a flexible workforce, bring in new skills, and free up officers’ time to focus on the jobs only they can carry out.

This Government wants to encourage those with skills in particular demand, such as those with specialist IT or accountancy skills, to get involved and help the police to investigate cyber or financial crime, and help officers and staff fight crime more widely.

This Government is committed to finishing the job of police reform and we intend to legislate in the upcoming Policing and Criminal Justice Bill.

The Lord Ferrers awards highlight the vital role volunteers play in support of policing by giving up their free time to make communities safer and enhancing the effectiveness of policing across England and Wales.