What Does A PCSO Do?

PCSO’s are now a common sight around towns and cities in the United Kingdom, but what does a PCSO do exactly? There are many misconceptions about PCSO’s, so in this article we’ll look at the role of a Police Community Support Officer, what they do, how they do it, what powers they do and don’t have, and how a PCSO can benefit your neighbourhood.

There’s a really handy table of contents just below. Click on a heading and it will take you directly to that information right on this page.

What Does A PCSO Do?

A PSCO (Police Community Support Officer) is a civilian, uniformed member of police staff. Their core role is to keep communities safe, involved and reassured through a high profile presence in their local community. A PCSO is not a police officer and does not have the powers of a police officer. They do have some powers granted by the Chief Constable which varies by Constabulary.

what does a PCSO do in the police force

A PCSO’s main role is to carry out high profile, high visibility patrols in their local area. They conduct their patrols on foot, on bicycles and in vehicles.

PCSO’s will often be deployed in built up areas like town and city centres, and in densely populated areas like housing estates. However, some constabularies also utilise PCSO’s in more rural settings.

PCSO’s will usually be allocated a specific area within these locations, and assigned to a community policing team led by a Police Constable.

PCSO’s try and establish relationships with key stakeholders in these areas, including local businesses, council members, and local residents. They hold frequent meetings in these areas (sometime referred to as PACT meetings – police and communities together) where anyone can come along and discuss their concerns regarding crime in the area.

PCSO’s and the community policing team will often launch initiatives and events in their area to raise awareness of crime related issues, such as drug awareness, speeding awareness and bicycle theft prevention. They’ll also offer advice on crime prevention, like advice on home security systems. They’ll often conduct these events in local community centres, parks or sports centres.

PCSO’s also have close working relationships with agenices such as youth engagement teams, homeless teams, drug and alcohol abuse teams, domestic abuse teams and all other teams and agencies that deal with common societal problems.

A PCSO also has access to the Police National Computer – a database of people and crimes. Within this database, PCSO’s can file intelligence reports from their local community, which is an extremely important part of their job role.

In essence then, a PCSO is the link between communities and the police service.

They serve their local communities and provide a highly visible presence, deterring crime and reporting suspicious activity into the larger policing family.

What Powers Does A PCSO Have?

A PCSO has limited police powers. PCSO’s are non warranted officers (meaning they are not sworn in, and do not carry a warrant card).

They are classed as police ‘staff’ rather than ‘police officers’.

PCSO powers vary from constabulary to constabulary. A PCSO has no power of arrest (apart from ‘any person’ powers of arrest under section 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which is commonly known as a citizens arrest).

But here are some common powers PCSO’s have (powers vary from force to force):

  • Issue Fixed penalty Notices (FPN’s) for low level crime such as dog fouling or littering.
  • Seize alcohol from persons under the legal age.
  • Seize tobacco from persons under the leagl age.
  • Seize certain drugs.
  • Require name and address from a person suspected to be commiting a crime.
  • Control traffic.
  • Detain a person suspected of commiting an offence.

Again, this list is not exhaustive, and some PCSO’s have more powers, and some have less, but depends on individual Constabularies.

You can find out what powers your local constabulary PCSO’s have by searching for your constabulary on Google.

What Do PCSO’s Wear As Uniform?

They are easily spotted because they look similar to a police officer, often wearing the same coloured uniform, stab vests and badges.

role of a pcso, what do they do

The big difference comes in terms of the headwear and equipment they carry. PCSO headwear has a distinctive light blue band going around their hat, which differs from a normal police hat which has the black and white chequered squares around it.

A PSCO also carries far less equipment than a police constable.

A PCSO will carry a police issued radio, and a pocket notebook to carry out their duties. They may also carry torches, first aid equipment and other police related paperwork.

When Was The Role Created And Why?

The Police Community Support Officer role was initially created in September 2002, by the Metropolitan Police Force.

The Police Reform Act 2002 made this possible.

The PCSO role was introduced to bridge a gap between communities and the police – a bridge that was getting longer and longer with every passing year due to the fact that a police officers job was made harder due to the amount of time they were taken off the streets to deal with paperwork.

No longer did we see the traditional image of a ‘bobby on the beat’. the world had changed, and policing and tactics had changed significantly since those days, so the introduction of PCSO’s was deemed a happy medium.

At present and according to latest data, there are 9,284 PCSO’s operating across the UK, well down from the peak in 2009 of over 16,000.

At its introduction, the PCSO scheme was branded as ‘policing on the cheap’ by some skeptics, and while there were early teething problems, PCSO’s are a crucial part of modern day policing.

What Are The Benefits Of Having PCSO’s In My Neighbourhood?

It’s a fact now that you are more likely to see a PCSO ‘walking the beat’ rather than a police officer.

This is largely down to the changing nature of the police role, paperwork, red tape and of course, budget cuts.

what does a police community support officer do

But what does a PCSO do for your neighbourhood, and what benefits does that bring?

An area that is patrolled by PCSO’s and community policing teams can have some huge benefits, the main ones being offering high visibility policing that deters crime in your area. These patrols will also collate intelligence, and can often lead to the prevention of crime in the long run.

What if you’ve never seen a PCSO in your local area? It’s possible that you may not have a PCSO in your local area, but to find out is quite easy.

The first port of call is to go onto your local constabulary website, and search your local area to find out who your local community policing team is. Usually, they’ll have the names and images of the officers in your area. They’ll also have contact details (phone numbers and email addresses) on display, so why not drop them an email and see what is happening in your local area?

Why not drop them an email with information or concerns? If you make them aware of your concerns, you can bet that this will be listened to, and it will be actioned. For example, if you let them know that the local park has problems with anti social behaviour on a Friday night, you can almost guarantee they’ll have a presence there the following Friday night.

PCSO’s are there to help their community. Get to know them, make yourself known, and you’ve got a direct link to a policing team that cares about you and the area you live in.


Hopefully you now have a better understanding of what a PCSO does. Here’s the summary of the article in quick bullet points.

  • PCSO’s were introduced in 2002 to bridge the gap between communities and the police service.
  • PCSO’s are the eyes and ears of the community and the police.
  • PCSO’s don’t have the same powers of a Police Constable.
  • PCSO’s have limited powers.
  • PCSO’s main role is to provide high visibility, high profile presence to deter crime.
  • PCSO’s have less paperwork so can spend more time in their communities.

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Here’s the resources used in this article:

Your Comments & Questions

I’m always happy to see comments from readers appear in my inbox, so don’t be shy, let me know what you think of the article, let me know what you think of PCSO’s and their role in the greater policing family.

Stay Safe. Stay Secure.

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My name is Richard.

I'm 40 years old. And I have nearly 20 years experience in various safety and security industries.

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2 thoughts on “What Does A PCSO Do?”

  1. Brilliant overview, thansk. I’m 20 and hoping to join the police service (GMP), I have failed a couple of times which i think is due to my age and inexperience, do you think this is a good stepping stone into the rugualr police and becoming a PC?

    • It is a good stepping stone, you’ll get the basics plus a lot more on how the police service works in general – from sitting in on briefings for response officers, to learning how to use the radios and PNC. Best of all though – you’ll get the experience dealing with people. Good luck.


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