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Police Accreditation

by msecadm4921

In tandem with Security Industry Authority licences – arguably overlapping with it – is police accreditation under the Government’s Police Reform agenda. Here are details from two North East police forces’ pioneering schemes.

Accreditation costs more than SIA badge
Cleveland and Durham’s accreditation will cost guarding firms far more than public sector employer like councils – and for security officers it works out dearer than an SIA licence.

Whereas it will cost a council £300 to be accredited, private sector employer will have to fork out £500. Similarly, a public sector employee will have to pay £90 to be accredited, and a private sector employee £132 (both prices include £32 for an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check). Not including VAT. While this is still less than the £190 for a SIA licence, the SIA badge lasts for three years, and you have to renew accreditation every two years. In other words, accreditation will cost a contract guard employee £66 a year plus VAT – £77.55. Over three years, that adds up to £232.65. Each police force can set its own fees – which can be renewed each year. p

The Government’s reform of policing means, says the Home Office, ‘bringing neighbourhood policing bang up to date, and putting police officers at the heart of the local community’.

Once you get past the platitudes, it is plain that what a january briefing paper calls the ‘extended police family’ is in action. Every ‘community’ will get its own neighbourhood policing team. In high-crime areas that may be mainly police constables; in some areas, more police community support officers (PCSOs) and wardens. The briefing document points to plans to introduce a national three-digit non-emergency telephone number. Again, implicit is the extended police family: higher-level crimes should still go through to police control rooms for a constabulary response, while lower-level complaints about vandalism or anti-social behaviour go through to the new number. Maybe the caller merely needs the name of the right person in the local authority to talk to. Not discussed in the briefing paper is the potential for private security to offer some of these services, as private firms have taken work in healthcare.

Lancashire Police are among the pioneers of such accreditation, launching their scheme (at first for local authority wardens) in February 2004.

The force’s annual policing plan for 2004-5 adds that the scheme will widen to the private sector: “This is likely to include retail park security, football stewards, park rangers, hospital security staff, parking attendants, door staff, and people involved in running large public events.”

Cleveland Police and Durham Constabulary are among the pioneers of community safety accreditation schemes. Those who carry out security or community safety patrols – such as councils and contract guarding companies – can be accredited, at a price.

Police acknowledge, according to the two police forces, that they are now no longer the only organisation patrolling communities. There are local authority warden schemes; and the private security sector tackles crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour. The accreditation scheme, according to police, will help to reassure the public as those carrying out such patrols will have been vetted and trained to a high standard.

Warden schemes

Over recent years all local authorities in Cleveland and Durham force areas have introduced neighbourhood warden schemes. These are diverse schemes, police add, and accreditation does not mean all warden schemes will operate in the same way. Some of the schemes opt for enforcement powers and, thanks to accreditation, additional powers can be granted. With financial support from the Home Office, Insp Graham Strange, with the partnership Safe in Tees Valley, has worked through the Police Reform Act that allows police forces to set up such schemes. He said: “Community safety patrols are carried out by numerous organisations in many different environments. For example high visibility patrols are delivered in shopping centres, schools and universities as well as many industrial and business locations. The long term vision is that those who provide this service will be given the opportunity to join the accreditation scheme and take advantage of the benefits, which will include improved information sharing. This is the way ahead and will lead to improved working relations with those carrying out patrols throughout Cleveland and Durham. The scheme will be introduced gradually. It may be some years before the full benefits are seen but it is a major step in a new direction.”

Role in partnership

Sgt Chris Thompson, from Durham Police, added: “The accreditation scheme plays a key role within Durham Constabulary’s StreetSafe reassurance strategy, which was launched by the Prime Minister last summer. The scheme provides a tremendous opportunity for organisations to work in partnership to increase public reassurance and address disorder and anti-social behaviour.” The detailed blueprint produced by Insp Strange covers five key issues:

l standardised training: to ensure every organisation works to a minimum standard.
l vetting standards: ensures enhanced criminal record checks are made on those carrying out community safety patrols as well as those who manage the schemes.
l information sharing: already taking place to varying degrees between police and local authorities, it will be regulated and, in some case, expanded. An improvement in information sharing could particularly benefit those who operate within the private security sector.
l powers: an accredited person may be granted a range of locally-focussed powers and may be authorised to issue fixed penalty notices for certain offences. Local community needs will be considered and powers will only be granted if they are appropriate to the role being performed and they are in compliance with local priorities and policies.
l new offences: such as assaulting, obstructing or impersonating an accredited person, have been introduced to provide civilians on patrol with greater protection.

All accredited persons will wear the uniform of their employer, which displays the scheme badge, and carry an ID card. If powers have been granted they will be listed on the back of the ID card and should those powers be used the public will be encouraged to ask to see the card for reassurance. Insp Strange said: “Applications have initially been invited from local authorities in the Cleveland and County Durham police areas. At this stage all Cleveland local authorities and three Durham local authorities will be accrediting their neighbourhood wardens. But word is spreading and we have already had inquiries from the private sector.”

For details: ring the scheme managers: David Williams (Cleveland) and Chris Thompson (Durham), based at Safe in Tees Valley on 01642 306699. For Police Reform Act background visit www.policereform.gov.uk

Scheme is not an SIA dodge

You cannot get out of Security Industry Authority licences by going down the police accreditation route, according to Cleveland Police’s Community Safety Accreditation Scheme policy paper.

The paper says: “Any person who is required to be licensed by the SIA, now or at any time in the future for any of their functions must have the appropriate SIA licence before an accreditation can be granted, continued or renewed. The terms of an accreditation may be amended subject to standards set by the SIA.” And if you are a national contract guarding company, or a smaller one crossing police force boundaries, you have to jump through the hoops (‘enter into an arrangement’) with each police force running a scheme. For an employee to get accredited, he will have to pass an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check.

Policies and procedures

Before a warden scheme or contract guarding company can seek to accredit staff, the organisation has to show it has policies and procedures including: an equal opportunities and race relations policy; ‘a suitable training plan for employees’; ‘a proper supervisory structure for employees, which addresses the need for daily direction and control of employees’; and ‘satisfactory arrangements for the handling of complaints’. An appendix does offer a draft joint operating protocol between police and an accredited company. The accredited company must keep a register of complaints from the public; and police must be told if an accredited person gets three or more complaints from the public within any 12-month.

Badge transfer

A guard, wheel clamper doorman, CCTV operator and so on with an SIA licence can carry that ‘badge’ from job to job – possibly leading to wage inflation and a shortage of contract guards, even meaning contract firms cannot meet some contracts. Similarly, the police-accredited individual’s can transfer his accreditation if he leaves the accredited company for another accredited company. But police will have to issue a new identity card (with an ‘administrative charge’). See separate article for fees.

The what ifs

What about the what ifs and who does what? The security company or warden manager can still manage misconduct and suspend an accredited employee without referring to police, though the company will have to notify the police. It is up to the employer to provide equipment ‘to ensure adequate lines of communication are available between the employer, accredited employee and local police’. Employer and police will sign an information sharing protocol. As the policy paper puts it: “The dissemination of intelligence must be carefully managed and obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 and subsequent associated legislation must be met.”

Badge transfer

The Police Reform Act 2002 and the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 give accrediting police forces the option to give accredited officers powers – not of arrest, but of requesting the name and address of someone. In the pipeline at the Home Office is the power for police community support officers to detain someone for 30 minutes, time for a constable to arrive with arrest powers. Accredited staff can issue fixed penalty tickets for various offences, such as graffiti, dog fouling and fly-posting. A power of interest to shopping malls with guard forces may be the fixed penalty tickets for parents, for truancy, if a child ought to be at school.

Liability

As for liability, a sample employer’s application form makes plain that police are not liable for an accredited employee; the employer is. p

For more details

For a copy of the policy paper, write to Safe in Tees Valley, 3rd floor, Christine House, Sorbonne Close, Thornaby, Stockton-on-Tees, TS17 6DA or download at:

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