Today (Monday 6 February) Chief Constable Charlie Hall held a special celebration ceremony to mark 20 years since the introduction of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) to the force.
The constabulary welcomed its first PCSOs in 2003, when 10 officers joined the beat in Watford and another four were assigned to the streets of Stevenage. Our frontline was bolstered further when more PCSOs joined the force later that same year.
To mark the special occasion Chief Constable Charlie Hall hosted a celebration ceremony with local dignitaries and PCSOs from across the force, including several who have been with us from the start.
Chief Constable Charlie Hall said: “Our Police Community Support Officers are an invaluable part of our grass roots policing. They are often the face of policing to both young and old, building relationships with local communities, attending community engagement events, problem solving local issues and working closely with our partner organisations to help tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.
“They have a Prevention First approach to policing, often tackling low level issues before they develop into more complex criminal issues, which can otherwise be both detrimental to people’s quality of life and a drain on valuable policing resources.
“I would like to thank each and every one of our PCSOs for their service to the people of Hertfordshire. In particular, I congratulate those who have been with us since the start – PCSOs Heather Burrows, Sarah Brown, Penelope Tomsett, Chris Brabrook, Barry Lovegrove, Carole Bull and Steven Jacob. They have made a tremendous difference in our communities and have become a bedrock of our policing approach.”
Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd added: “Our PCSOs do a tremendous job and are a vital part of the policing family. Over the years I have met many of them and I have always been impressed with their professionalism and dedication.
“They form a vital link between the public and the police, and I am often told by people that they are a reassuring presence on our streets who really get involved in the communities they serve.”
PCSOs were launched in England and Wales in 2002 under the Police Reform Act, with the first officers starting in the Metropolitan Police. However, national policing celebrations to mark the occasion were delayed last year due to the late Queen’s passing.
Billed as a ‘new chapter in policing’, 14 PCSOs started their first day on the job with Hertfordshire Constabulary in March 2003 and were tasked with being a visual presence on the streets, tackling anti-social behaviour, nuisance and quality of life issues, they aimed to provide reassurance to the public.
At the time, then Chief Constable of Hertfordshire Paul Acres said: “I have met all the new 14 PCSOs and I am tremendously impressed with their enthusiasm and the wide range of skills they bring with them from their previous careers. I look forward to their success and the future expansion of the deployment of PCSOs across the county.”
Seven PCSOs have been with us since the launch of the scheme.
Among them is PCSO Steven Jacob who was just 21 when he joined policing from a retail background.
He said: “After 19 years I’m still here and would not change that for the world. It has been one of the best experiences of my life.”
He started his policing career as the local officer for Shenley and then later Elstree but has been serving Croxley Green and Sarratt for the last 17 years.
Steven said: “It has been nice to watch two generations of families grow up and that most of the community know who I am.
“The role is so varied and every day is different, from major disasters such as the Buncefield explosion, major events like the NATO summit at The Grove or helping partners to rescue more than 60 ducks off the M25!”
PCSO Heather Burrows first joined Herts police in May 2000 as a traffic warden in North Herts before becoming one of the first four PCSOs to be deployed to Stevenage. She covered Broadwater.
Since 2010 she has been on the beat in Hitchin Rural.
Heather said: “I love that every day is different and spending time in my community, talking to farmers, game keepers, shop owners, landlords and schools, the list is endless.”
PCSOBarry Lovegrove, who has been patrolling Borehamwood for the majority of the last 19 years, joined after seeing an advert in the local paper.
“My previous career had been in the leisure industry and I was used to speaking to people and sorting out problems,” he said.
“I fancied a career change and this seemed an ideal opportunity to be at the start of something new and exciting.”
Barry loves the flexibility of the role and being able to use his own initiative.
He said: “Being in the fresh air, outside, going for a walk or cycle beats working in an office any day of the week.”
PCSO Sarah Brown was already working for the force as a hate crime officer when she saw the role of PCSO advertised.
She said: “I wanted to try something different and work with people face to face and the role looked interesting and really appealed to me.”
She was the first PCSO to be posted in Buntingford taking up the post in September 2003.
“I quickly immersed myself into the local community and had responsibility for patrolling the rural villages of Walkern, Bennington and Dane End.
“I think I was a bit of a novelty at first, but the locals soon got used to seeing me walking around the village and I loved visiting the schools and local groups and helping the community with the issues they faced.
“Not long after joining Buntingford I was thrust into the spotlight following the shooting and murder of retired Colonel Workmen in Furneux Pelham. The country’s press descended on the sleepy village and my picture was even printed in the Sunday Express!”
Sarah was based at Buntingford for six years before transferring to North Herts where she has been a PCSO since 2013.
Her job means she got to help along the route of the 2012 Olympic Torch relay and in the same year the late Queen visited Hitchin. “Being part of the team that helped make the day go smoothly was such an honour and one I will never forget,” said Sarah.
“I still enjoy being a PCSO and I would say that it is by far the best job I have ever had. I feel privileged to have been part of the lives of the residents of Hertfordshire for so many years.”
PCSO Penelope Tomsett was a call handler when she saw the job of PCSO advertised. “I thought to myself, after having heard for the last two years, what it could be like outside on the street, I would like to be out there helping people. So I applied, and in October 2003 became a PCSO starting my life on the beat at Cheshunt,” she said.
“It was all a little strange, we were a new commodity for neighbourhood teams, and some were not aware what we could do or what we were capable of. I went out on my beat, and within the first week had stopped someone who was wanted, officers were alerted by the control room, and the person was promptly arrested.”
After three years at Cheshunt, Penelope transferred to Royston and has been there ever since.
She added: “There have been many times in my 19 years of policing that I have helped the wider community either by intelligence led information, that has helped stop criminality in the area, and have helped to make the community feel safe. This is really important to me. Royston has a special place in my heart.”