Police officer and PCSO

PCSOs: Designated police powers


Guide informationSource

Section 38 of the Police Reform Act 2002 (“Act”) enables chief officers of police to designate any person who is employed by the police authority and is under the direction and control of that chief officer as a ‘community support officer’. The term ‘community support officer’ is widely used to describe a variety of staff from differing agencies fulfilling a community safety function. The term ‘Police Community Support Officer’ (PCSO) should be used to describe staff in all forces who are designated by chief officers under section 38 of the Act.

A chief officer must be satisfied that a person is suitable, capable and adequately trained to carry out the functions required of them.

Section 38 of the Act allows a chief officer to designate powers to PCSOs as set out in Part 1 of Schedule 4 of the Act (as amended by the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 and the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005). Chief officers must decide which, if any, of the paragraphs in Part 1 are to be designated to PCSOs in their force. Paragraphs must be selected in their entirety, unless the paragraph specifies otherwise (e.g. paragraph 1(3)(b) allows the selection of relevant offences). The ability to designate some paragraphs is also dependent on the designation of others (e.g. paragraph 11B can only be designated if paragraph 3A is also designated).

Police officer and PCSO

A PCSO has lesser powers than a police officer.

The main powers of a PCSO are set out in the table below.

Power Relevant legislation
Power to issue fixed penalty notices for cycling on a footpath:

Power of a constable in uniform to give a person a fixed penalty notice under section 54 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (fixed penalty notices) in respect of an offence under section 72 of the Highway Act 1835 (riding on a footway) committed by cycling.
Paragraph 1(2)(b) of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002.
Power to issue fixed penalty notices for littering:

Power of an authorised officer of a litter authority to give a notice under section 88 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (fixed penalty notices in respect of litter).
Paragraph 1(2)(d) of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002.
Power to issue fixed penalty notices in respect of offences under dog control orders:

Power of an authorised officer of a primary or secondary authority, within the meaning of section 59 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, to give a notice under that section (fixed penalty notices in respect of offences under dog control orders).
Paragraph 1(2)(e) of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002 (see section 62(2) of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005).
Power to require name and address:

Power to require the name and address of a person whom a PCSO has reason to believe has committed a relevant offence or a relevant licensing offence (Relevant offences are defined under subparagraph 2(6) of Schedule 4 of the Police Reform Act 2002 and include relevant fixed penalty offences under paragraph 1 of Schedule 4, an offence under section 32(2) of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 (failure to follow an instruction to disperse) and an offence which appears to have caused injury, alarm or distress to another person or loss of or damage to another person’s property.
Relevant licensing offence is defined as a specified offence under the Licensing Act 2003) Paragraph 1A enables chief constables to designate the power to require name and address without also designating the power of detention.
Paragraph 1(A) of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002 (inserted by paragraph 2 of Schedule 8 to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005).
Power to require name and address for anti-social behaviour:

Power of a constable in uniform under section 50 of the Police Reform Act 2002 to require a person whom he has reason to believe to have been acting, or to be acting, in an anti-social manner to give his name and address.
Subparagraph 3(2) of Schedule 4 provides the PCSO with the power to detain (under subparagraphs 2(3) to (5) of Schedule 4). However, by virtue of paragraph 2(8) of Schedule 4 the power to detain has no effect unless a PCSO has been designated with the power of detention under paragraph 2 of Schedule 4.
Paragraph 3 of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002 (as amended by paragraph 3(10) of Schedule 8 to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005).
Power to require name and address for road traffic offences:

Enables PCSOs to be designated with the power to require the name and address of a driver or pedestrian who fails to follow the directions of a community support officer or police officer under sections 35 or 37 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
Paragraph 3A of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002 (inserted by paragraph 6 of Schedule 8 to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005).
Power to require persons drinking in designated places to surrender alcohol:

Power to require a person whom a PCSO reasonably believes is, or has been, consuming alcohol in a designated public place or intends to do so, to not consume that alcohol and to surrender any alcohol or container for alcohol.
Power to dispose of alcohol surrendered.
Paragraph 5 of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002.
Power to require persons aged under 18 to surrender alcohol:

Power to require a person who he reasonably suspects is aged under 18 or is or has been supplying alcohol to a person aged under 18 to surrender any alcohol in his possession and to give their name and address.
Power to require such a person to surrender sealed containers of alcohol if the PCSO has reason to believe that the person is or has been consuming or intends to consume alcohol.
Power to dispose of alcohol surrendered.
Paragraph 6 of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002
Power to seize tobacco from a person aged under 16 and to dispose of that tobacco. Paragraph 7 of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002 .
Power to seize drugs and require name and address for possession of drugs:

Enables PCSOs to be designated with a power seize unconcealed drugs or drugs found when searching for alcohol, tobacco or other items if the PCSO reasonably believes the person is in unlawful possession of them.
The PCSO must retain the drugs until a constable instructs them what to do with it.
If a PCSO finds drugs in a person’s possession or has reason to believe that a person is in possession of drugs and reasonably believe such possession is unlawful then the PCSO may require that persons name and address.
Paragraphs 7B of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002 (inserted by paragraph 8 of Schedule 8 to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005).
Power to enter and search any premises for the purposes of saving life and limb or preventing serious damage to property.Paragraph 8 of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002.
Power to seize vehicles used to cause alarm:

Power to stop and seize a vehicle which a PCSO has reason to believe is being used in a manner which contravenes sections 3 or 34 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (careless and inconsiderate driving and prohibition of off-road driving) and is causing alarm, distress or annoyance under section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002.
Paragraph 9 of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002.
Power to remove abandoned vehicles under regulations made under section 99 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984:

A PCSO designated under this paragraph has the power to order the removal of a vehicle under regulation 3 of the Removal and Disposal of Vehicles Regulations 1986.
This relates to vehicles that have broken down or been permitted to remain at rest on a road: (a) in a position, condition or situation causing obstruction or danger to persons using the road, or (b) in contravention of a prohibition contained in Schedule 1 of the regulations.
Paragraph 10 of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002.
Power to stop cycles:

Powers of a constable in uniform to stop a cycle under section 163(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 when a PCSO has reason to believe that a person has committed the offence of riding on a footpath.
Paragraph 11A of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002 (inserted by section 89(3) of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003).
Power to control traffic for purposes other than escorting a load of exceptional dimensions:

Powers to direct traffic (for purposes other than escorting loads of exceptional dimensions) based on the powers constables have under sections 35 and 37 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
It also gives PCSOs the power to direct traffic for the purposes of conducting a traffic survey. PCSOs designated under this paragraph must also be designated with powers under paragraph 3A of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act.
Paragraph 11B of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002 (inserted by paragraph 10 of Schedule 8 to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005).
Power to carry out road checks:

Power to carry out a road check which has been authorised by a superintendent (or a police officer of higher rank) and power to stop vehicles for the purposes of carrying out a road check
Paragraph 13 of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002.
Power to place signs:

Enables PCSOs to be designated with the power of a constable under section 67 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to place and maintain traffic signs.
Paragraph 13A of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002 (inserted by paragraph 11 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005).
Power to enforce cordoned areas:

Under section 36 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
Paragraph 14 of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002.
Power to photograph persons away from a police station:

Enables PCSOs to be designated with the power to photograph a person who has been arrested, detained or given a fixed penalty notice away from the police station.
Paragraph 15ZA of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002 (inserted by paragraph 12 of Schedule 8 to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005).
Power to stop and search in authorised areas:

Powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 in authorised areas to stop and search vehicles and pedestrians when in the company and under the supervision of a constable.
Paragraph 15 of Schedule 4 to the Police Reform Act 2002.

This information is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. It should not be relied upon as being up to date; the law or policies may have changed since it was last updated; and it should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice or as a substitute for it. A suitably qualified professional should be consulted if specific advice or information is required.

Contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0.


External link: Police community support officer powers (PDF, 35.9KB)

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Author: HM Government




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