Essex Police is leading the way in strengthening community policing and has been hailed as an example of best practice by the Home Office for its partnership working.
The national policing context has shifted substantially since Chief Constables have been allowed to designate certain policing powers to other organisations. The Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS) was created in 2002 under section 40 of the Police Reform Act. Under the scheme, uniformed employees of organisations such as local authorities, housing associations and private security companies can have powers delegated to them to tackle low-level crime and Anti-Social Behaviour. The concept of Citizens in Policing is now an integral part of the police service, reflecting the need for a multi-agency approach to tackle crime and disorder.
Essex Police has the largest scheme in England and Wales with 54 Accredited Organisations and 539 Accredited Persons such as community wardens, park rangers, housing officers, anti-social behaviour officers and parking partnership employees. The people accredited have low-level policing powers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices for littering, dog fouling and minor incidents of anti-social behaviour without the involvement of the police. Accredited staff are police vetted, trained and are only awarded powers that are appropriate to their paid employment; they carry out these additional duties while going about their normal day job. They must wear identifiable clothing as part of their normal employment, clearly display the national CSAS badge and carry a photographic ID card to identify them, their role and their accredited powers. This formalised framework to facilitate the sharing of information and intelligence allows a more locally driven approach to help resolve community problems.
This year, seventeen organisations notched up ten years working with Essex Police, among them Chelmsford City and Tendring District councils. Chelmsford City Council has been working with police helping to keep people safe and aiming to reduce anti-social behaviour in the city.  Several teams across the Council have accredited officers working to combat environmental crime and anti-social behaviour. They also join police on days of action.  Accredited staff from Tendring District Council patrolled this year’s Clacton Air Show and are working with the police to deliver Stay Safe for Winter crime prevention advice to the public.
Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Roger Hirst said,
“For me, safe and secure communities are the bedrock on which we build wellbeing and prosperity for all. This scheme, in conjunction with the extra 150 officers about to take up their roles, helps to deliver my priorities of tackling Anti-Social Behaviour and building public confidence and community cohesion.
“However, each and everyone of us can play a role in making sure criminals have no scope to thrive, in watching out for vulnerable people and helping the police where we can. When we all work together, pass on what we see or know, we can help to ensure that criminals don’t have the space in which to operate. The benefits of having a wider ‘policing family’ to back up the work of our officers cannot be overstated.”
All the people given extra powers through the scheme link in with their local Community Policing Teams and regularly attend their Local Policing Hub and Tasking Meetings. They are updated with details of missing people or wanted people and provide intelligence back to the police. They undertake joint patrols with officers, assist with local crime prevention initiatives and support operations. They also have limited access to the Police National Computer and can obtain details relating to any stolen or abandoned vehicles they encounter as part of their patrol. Essex is the only force with this system in place for accredited civilians and this is another area where the Home Office recognises the force as a model for best practice.
Essex Police Assistant Chief Constable, Andy Prophet, said,
“The network of organisations and individuals working hard to keep communities in Essex safe is broad and deep, and it’s great news that work has been recognised nationally. Community safety accreditation gives those already working to reduce crime and disorder more powers and responsibilities to do so. That adds to rather than replaces the work of community police officers and our commitment is that Essex Police will continue to work hand-in-hand with our partners for the benefit of all our communities.”
There are plans to further extend the civilian accreditation scheme, just as there are plans to recruit more police officers. The Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner is now analysing data from its recent survey which asked for the public’s opinion on paying for policing in Essex. The 150 new officers recruited earlier this year are now finishing their training and are about to be deployed in communities across Essex.