Northumbria PCC Vera Baird is supporting calls to ditch proposals to arm police volunteers with CS gas and PAVA spray.
The Policing and Crime Bill had its second reading in Parliament this week and Ms Baird believes the Home Secretary is trying ‘to achieve policing on the cheap’ by equipping police community support officers in this way.
She said: “Volunteers have a very important role to play in supporting policing, but not to place themselves in potentially dangerous situations. When the Home Secretary consulted on her proposals to increase volunteers powers, I said at the time she was trying to provide policing on the cheap.
“Volunteers don’t want to have some of the responsibilities being outlined by the Home Secretary; volunteers want to support the work of police officers – not to do their jobs for them. The use of CS gas and PAVA spray is something that should only be undertaken by full-time officers, who are regularly trained on their usage and importantly in the law surrounding their use.
“Rather than extending the role of volunteers, the Government needs to start funding police forces properly, to allow Chief Constables and Police & Crime Commissioners to recruit more police officers, who can go on the beat and serve local communities. We have lost 861 police officers and 940 police staff since 2010 through government cuts which can’t be replaced by volunteers.”
UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said: “We all want to feel safe in these troubled times, but allowing police volunteers to use CS gas and PAVA spray when they will only have had limited training makes no sense at all.
“The Government is trying to get policing on the cheap, when instead it should be funding police forces properly. This is no way to fill the gaps created by the loss of the 5,000 paid PCSOs who have been made redundant since 2010 because of government cuts.
“This could be the thin edge of the wedge. Ministers seem set on more and more policing being undertaken by volunteers, who have powers way beyond their training. “While volunteers have a role to play, this is not the kind of law enforcement anyone wants to see.”