Norfolk Police defend scene guard proposals
Norfolk Police has defended its decision to employ civilian staff on zero-hour contracts to protect crime scenes.
The force says the idea is currently being tested and will only progress further if it is found to be effective.
But the move comes as residents face a 10 per cent rise in the amount of council tax they pay to fund police services.
And critics say they fear the scheme could be rolled out more widely because of continuing pressure on police budgets caused by a lack of government funding.
The move is part of the rollout of a controversial new policing model, which saw all of Norfolk Police’s community support officers (PCSOs) made redundant last year.
The force says that, while attending what it describes as “scene seals” was part of both a PCSO and a police officer’s duties, a review concluded such work could be done without a policing warrant, potentially freeing officers for other work.
A spokesman said: “Following significant reinvestment in frontline police officers, the pilot of a scene guard role was introduced to free up officer time for more complex enquiries and investigations.
“In some cases it may even remove the need for overtime.
“Following the pilot, the constabulary will conduct a thorough evaluation and only progress the civilian scene guards initiative further if there is an evidence base to demonstrate the proposal is effective.
“Scene guards will have zero-hours contracts and, when required, will assist at police cordons at certain low risk crime or incident scenes which need to have a visible police presence on a 24/7 basis while investigations are completed.
“Duties could include preserving the integrity of the crime/incident scene, running a scene log, detailing everyone entering/leaving the scene and dealing with initial enquiries from members of the public and media.”
The force also said it expects the 150 PCSOs who were made redundant would be replaced “by a virtually identical amount of police officers” over the coming year.
But opponents have described the idea as insulting to the former PCSOs.
And North West Norfolk Labour secretary Jo Rust yesterday described the plan as “appalling”.
She said: “Making people redundant from proper jobs with contractual responsibilities and rights only to replace them with hourly paid, possibly unqualified workers is demonstration of poor decision making and not thinking through fully the ramifications of their actions.”
“The fact the PCC also wanted to take over the fire service is a worry for the employment status of workers there too.”
MP Clive Lewis has also called for the practice to be banned.