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Community Support Officers (CSOs), more commonly known as Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) are uniformed civilians, employed by the police authority, under the control of the Chief Officer of Police. They were introduced by provisions in the Police Reform Act 2002.

Recently there has been controversy over the appropriate use of PCSOs prompted by reports that the South Yorkshire Police Authority was considering an initiative where PCSOs should become the "first line of contact" for the public.

PCSOs currently have 20 standard powers and a range of discretionary additional powers which may be granted by the local chief constable should he or she believe that they are required. The Government said in answer to a parliamentary question in June 2011 that it has no current plans to extend these powers.

PCSOs are currently funded partly through Government grant to police authorities and partly through match funding from other organisations. The Neighbourhood Policing Fund grant will continue until 2013-14, when directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners will be in place.

At the end of September 2011 there were 15,469 FTE PCSOs, an annual decrease of 5.5%. The decreases in 2011 are the first since PCSOs were established. By March 2015, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary estimates that PCSO strength will have fallen to approximately 15,000.


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