Proposals to throw PCSOs onto the front line have been met with concern by MPs and the Police Federation.
South Yorkshire Police presented plans yesterday to make police community support officers (PCSOs) a “first line of contact” for the public, with the title local beat officer (LBO).
South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton insisted his force was simply matching its resources to the tasks it faced.
He said: “Any suggestion we are taking officers away from areas they have been working in the past is plain wrong.
“In some areas of the force, the officers will be routinely patrolling in exactly the same way they have in the past.
He said PCSOs were capable of dealing with 95 per cent of the community type issues which come up but that “there are also generally things, particularly around more confrontational situations, you would genuinely want a police office for.
“When those occasions arise people will have a police officer to deal with that.”
South Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Neil Bowles said he was worried about the impact of the change.
“There are certain powers within South Yorkshire that our PCSOs don’t have,” he said.
“That is a proposal that will go before our command team whether they have those powers or not — our concern is [PCSOs] are not as accountable as police officers to the law or the community.
“We are governed by very strict standards of behaviour, whereas PCSOs are not.”
Commons home affairs select committee chairman Keith Vaz also expressed concern.
“Warranted officers have the power of arrest, conduct investigations,” while PCSOs “are supposed to be out there to build community support,” he said.
“The danger is the whole nature of policing changes, because there is a belief we have to save police officers from doing the most important bit of their work — which is to engage with the public, to arrest people when there is crime and to make thorough investigations.”