16 July 2018

New Police and Fire Community Support Officer role is piloted in Salisbury

Police Sergeant Ben Huggins tells us about why this role was created and how it is being trialled.

What is a Police and Fire Community Support Officer (PFCSO)?

Police and Fire Community Support Officers (PFCSOs) are existing PCSOs, with an ancillary on call firefighter status. Whilst their core role remains as a PCSO, they also carry a fire pager whilst on duty, allowing them to respond to fire calls as required within their locality area. In addition, PFCSO’s will receive additional training allowing them to increase community safety by being able to perform Safe and Well (SAW) checks from assessing fire alarms through to identifying fire hazards. This will provide an additional level of support to the existing SAW and Fire Education departments.

Why is this role being developed?

The Policing and Crime Act 2017 introduced a high level duty to collaborate on all three emergency services with a view to improving efficiency or effectiveness.  The PFCSO Pilot fits into a wider stream of ongoing Police and Fire Collaboration work. Both organisations are working together to identify where and how we can best align our resources and processes to reduce duplication of procedures and give a better service to the Wiltshire Public.  We anticipate that both services will see several benefits to this type of collaborative role, including improved staff retention, new recruitment opportunities as well as a valuable understanding of the work carried out by each service.  We envisage cost and efficiency savings in both services and, if successful, we hope that this trial will be a catalyst for forging further opportunities for collaboration.

What does the pilot involve?

The PFCSO pilot commenced on the 4th June 2018 and will initially run for 6 months.  It is proposed that the first 3 weeks of the pilot will iron out any small issues or concerns that appear, with a full implementation of the pilot set to be launched on the 29th June 2018 by Chief Constable Pritchard and Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell.

Throughout the pilot 2 PCSOs (already trained as on-call firefighters) will perform the function, assessing how effective the role is and whether it is fit for future purpose.  Their core responsibility is that of PCSO and therefore they will remain on their usual shifts, alongside their usual teams.  However should an immediate fire assistance call be received, the 2 officers will be released wherever possible to attend.

Within Wiltshire Police, the PFCSO pilot is fully endorsed and supported by both the Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner. Wiltshire Police and Dorset and Wiltshire Fire are working together on a number of innovative and exciting collaborative ways to improve their ability to meet their communities' needs.

We are taking an innovative approach around 'proving the concept' and are looking solely to the pilot to tell us what works, what doesn't and what we need to do next.  Throughout the pilot, regular evaluation will be undertaken to identify the effectiveness of the model, the difficulties presented and to assess if the model is sustainable for the future.  We need to be able to demonstrate if this model could be effective for the communities of Wiltshire, building sustainable links, improving emergency service effectiveness and ultimately offering a better service.

The evaluation process was always going to be key to the pilot. Owing to the complexities, it was extremely difficult to anticipate how the pilot would look or feel, or indeed, what the wider impact of the pilot would be on finance or resources.
In order to ensure we received the best advice on the level and nature or our assessments, we arranged a session at one of the College of Policing's Research Surgeries. At the Surgery we were advised to first identify the questions we wanted to explore through the pilot. We received advice on how to record feedback efficiently, and settled on the use of a 'daily journal' type approach from the officers involved to capture their activity.  Continuously throughout the pilot we will look to evaluate on a weekly basis, so that we know if the trial is likely to be successful.

Whilst the list is not exhaustive, some of the things contained within the evaluation include:

  • How many fire assistance calls and fire tasks occur during PCSO work time?
  • What logistical issues could impact on the effectiveness of the mode (shifts/locations/vehicle usage etc)
  • How often does the fire tasking process conflict with the PCSO tasking process?
  • Does this reduce duplicity and create efficient processes and procedures? 
  • Are there ways to better explore management of community vulnerability? 
  • How can the fire role help supplement the future of Community Policing Teams?

The trial is due to finish on 4th December 2018 and we are planning to make the results of the pilot available to all, including anecdotal comments.  Through this pilot we hope to establish whether the PFCSO model could be a suitable and sustainable model for Wiltshire communities. If it is proven to be effective, the next steps will be exploring how we can expand the role and implement it on a more permanent basis.

If you would like to know anything further about the PFSCO trial, please contact Police Sergeant Ben Huggins Benjamin.Huggins@wiltshire.pnn.police.uk  

The College of Policing maintains this micro site to enhance public access to specific and background information about the What Works Centre.  Our goal is to keep this information timely and accurate, and any errors brought to our attention will be corrected as quickly as possible. The What Works micro site may contain content produced by third parties, and the College accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever regarding the accuracy, timeliness, or applicability of any third party content