The Powers of a PCSO

As a PCSO, (Police Community Support Officer) you will have certain powers to utilise, so you can do your job, assisting police in crime prevention, around the area you’re appointed to protect. You will endure a variety of situations, some will be social disturbances, others could be the potential for a crime to be committed, and each will require you to use different powers.

While you won’t be trained to the official standards of a Police Officer, you will have sufficient PCSO training provided by the police force you’re working with, to help you serve to the best of your abilities. This will give you certain powers within the community, but you won’t be able to formally arrest people, as a Police Officer would.

The Powers of a PCSO


You will need to use radio communication for assistance when needed. During the time you’re waiting for assistance is when you need to use your powers as a PCSO, to temporarily detain, or lawfully arrest someone, under the same criteria of a Citizen’s Arrest.

Anyone is able to detain suspects until police arrive at the scene, but not everyone is trained in the detaining techniques used by police forces, which is how you’ll be able to perform a lawful arrest with minimum distress. Tools are provided to help, such as batons, and handcuffs, but not every situation will call for that method of action.

You have to use your own judgement and know what powers to use and when to use them.

  • You can issue fixed penalty notices

FPNs can be issued by a PCSO when they witness people littering in the streets, cycling on pavements, or allowing their dogs to foul in public places, without discarding of the droppings. In these situations, a PCSO has the power to issue a fixed penalty notice, although discretion can be used to allow people to rectify the errors of their ways, such as picking up discarded litter to avoid the issue of an FPN.

  • Acquire personal details

It’s not everyone who can just walk up to someone and demand their name, address and contact details. A PCSO has the power to acquire these details from any member of the public, where they have reason to believe an offense may have been committed. This information will be relayed back to Police Officers to aid them in their inquiries. Such instances can range from stopping drivers, suspected of a traffic violation, any form of anti-social behaviour, as well when someone is suspected to be in possession of controlled drug. A PCSO doesn’t have the power to stop and search, unless assisted by a police officer. On occasions, when people are suspected to be in possession of illegal drugs, a PCSO will need to use their power to detain, until a suitable police officer can attend the scene.

  • Seize alcohol and tobacco and controlled drugs

Due to the illegality of alcohol consumption in public places, a PCSO has the power to seize alcohol from people drinking in public places. On occasions, within communities there will be youths, under 18 in possession of alcohol. In such occasions, when the youth doesn’t have proof of identity, a PCSO has the power to seize the alcohol from them, or supervise the disposal of it. The same applies to under 16s in possession of tobacco; a PCSO can seize the tobacco. For those found to be in possession of controlled drugs, a PCSO can also seize those too.

  • Forced entry to property

As a police community support officer, you do have the power to enter premises, but only in situations where there is reasonable cause to believe a person’s life could be in danger or instances where it’s for the prevention of property damage. You won’t have the power to search premises when there’s a concern that it’s used to supply drugs, or involved in other illegal activities. That will require the police force to investigate the matter, and acquire a warrant to search the premises.

  • Seizure of vehicles

Under section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002, a PCSO has the power to seize a vehicle from owners who are using it for the purposes of causing public alarm, distressing people, and/or causing public nuisance.

  • Controlling roads

A PCSO can also be required to carry out road checks, assist in traffic control measurements, in instances when there’s a power outage, disrupting traffic signals, or rerouting traffic, due an accident. These situations may also require temporary sign posts to be located in areas nearby, which a PCSO does have the power to place road signs, instructing drivers to use a different road, and closing routes off, as required. When there’s reason to believe a vehicle has been abandoned at the roadside, a PCSO has the power to remove the vehicle, using the appropriate channels designated by each police force.

  • Law enforcement of crime scenes

When a serious crime has been committed, the police will cordon off the area for forensic testing and other inquiries. During these times, a PCSO could be required to enforce cordoned areas, preventing public access. In such circumstances, a PCSO can also be assigned to carry out door-to-door inquiries, to assist the police in their investigations.

There are additional duties with varying powers to PCSOs in different police stations

As different communities have different problems…police community support officers have different duties. Those come with different powers to assist from the various police stations you could be working with. Such differences can be assisting in high streets, by acquiring personal details from people begging on the streets, then moving them away from where they’re considered to be causing a public nuisance, by begging people as they pass.

In smaller local communities, the challenges could be different, and see you dealing with truancy. In this case, you have not only the power, but more importantly a duty to return the youth(s) to their school, under section 4c of the Police Reforms Act.

Each station will have different areas they need to focus on within the communities, and those duties will be passed onto the PCSOs allocated to the area, along with the powers described above, and perhaps some additional powers, depending on the police requirements for the area.