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Police Reform Act 2002

Chapter 1: Exercise of police powers etc. by civilians

25.As proposed in Policing a New Century: A Blueprint for Reform, the Act provides for specified police support staff and civilians to be given particular powers in various defined circumstances in order to perform certain defined functions. The purpose of this is three-fold:

  • Firstly, it is intended to free up police officer time for their core functions by making more effective use of support staff, including detention officers, escort officers, and investigating officers acting as Scenes of Crime Officers (SOCOs).

  • Secondly, as part of the drive to tackle crime more effectively, it is the Government’s intention to enable forces to employ specialist investigating officers to provide expertise in combating specialist crime involving areas such as finance and Information Technology. The Act enables such investigators to be granted the powers necessary to enable them to do their job effectively.

  • Thirdly, it is designed to provide additional capacity to combat low level disorder, and thereby help reduce the public’s fear of crime. The Act enables chief officers to appoint suitable support staff (‘community support officers’) to roles providing a visible presence in the community, with powers sufficient to deal with minor issues. Such staff would be under the formal direction and control of the chief officer. The Government also wants to harness the commitment of those already involved in crime reduction activities, such as traffic wardens, neighbourhood and street wardens and security staff, through an extended police family. The Act makes provision for community safety accreditation schemes and a railway safety accreditation scheme and, in certain circumstances, the granting of limited powers to accredited members of those schemes.

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