News Archive

Police Powers

by msecadm4921

From the October print magazine. A stumbling block to private security staff taking on ever more police-style work – whether on purpose or by default – is a lack of police powers.

Put another way, how can security officers deal with crunch situations, such as fleeing thieves, if Security is effectively replacing the police in shopping malls and elsewhere? Or, how can guards protect companies at all hours from animal rights protesters? A Home Office paper offers some possibilities.

What powers of arrest does a security officer – like any other citizen – have? A citizen’s arrest is poorly understood, admits the document Policing: Modernising Police Powers to Meet Community Needs. In more detail, the document proposes the citizen has the power of arrest “when any person reasonably believes anyone is committing, has
committed or is about to commit any offence and it is not reasonably practicable for a police officer to make the arrest. There should be a clear legal requirement on anyone making a citizen’s arrest to ensure that the arrested person is passed into the custody of a constable as soon as practicable.”

The document admit to a growing problem of “intimidatory and violent protests by animal rights extremists against companies and their employees engaged in the bioscience industry”: “The presence of groups of protestors outside the homes of employees of targeted companies is viewed as being particularly distressing as it affects not just the employee but also their families. Where the police are in attendance, they are generally able to contain such protests and often the issuing of a direction to leave is complied with. However, the police may not and cannot always be in attendance.” As the document adds, demonstrators may simply return. A new offence is proposed, of protesting outside homes, including an order that the protester does not return to the scene for three months. Also proposed is an extended Protection from Harassment Act 1997, to cover a company’s staff harassed by protesters.

The document follows a Government review of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), which lays out police powers. The Government says its aims include providing ‘the police and other relevant agencies with appropriate powers to tackle crime’ and freeing police for front-line duties. For instance, in the name of reducing the burden on police officers, “it is proposed that civilian investigation officers should be empowered to apply for and execute warrants” to do with stolen good and drugs.

Under ‘expanding the use of civilian staff’ the document suggests more custody roles for civilians, such as custody officer – a job described as “complex but largely administrative” – and identification officer (identifying suspects). As for community support officers (CSOs) and accredited persons (who under the Police Reform Act could include private security contract staff), the following powers are proposed: to ask the particulars of beggars, and if they refuse to move, power to detain them; and “a limited power to search” a person a CSO has detained, for weapons. A CSO already has power “to issue fixed penalty notices for drunk and disorderly behaviour and drinking in a designated public place and the power to confiscate alcohol from young people”. The document suggests more powers to CSOs to deal with underage drinkers and the sale of alcohol to under-18s.

As for police providing paid-for services – at stewarded events, for instance – under Section 25 of the Police Act 1996, the document admits “a lack of clarity and consistency” on this topic. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) is drawing up guidance, the document notes. To pay for policing, the document speaks of more work with ‘stake-holders’ – such as a voluntary “financial contribution” from the drinks industry. Business Improvement Districts are mentioned as a way to “generate some extra money to tackle particular local problems around alcohol-related crime”.

Under driver offences, the document describes how ANPR may be funded through fixed penalty ticket revenue. Some 23 police forces are taking in the second phase of a pilot project, Project Laser, that started in June 2003. ACPO proposes ANPR for every police basic command unit in England and Wales.

You can respond to the document by October 8. E-mail regarding ‘Policing: Police Powers’ to [email protected] or write to Police Leadership and Powers Unit, 2nd Floor Allington Towers, 19 Allington Street, London SW1E 5EB.

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