August, 13th 2007

Policing by the kids?

– Liz Mair

Via Fark, Britain's Daily Mail reports that the Thames Valley police are employing 16 year-old quasi-officers (16 is a common age for leaving school in the UK):

Two 16-year-olds have been recruited as police community support officers with the authority to detain and question suspects.

The pair, just out of school, will join foot patrols from a 'busy' police station.

The move by Thames Valley Police has triggered a row about public safety and allegations that forces - and the Government - are trying to "police on the cheap".

Many other forces said today that they would not employ PCSOs under the age of 18, although Humberside Police admitted they had a 17-year-old PCSO on the beat. A force spokesman claimed policy stated that 16-year-olds could be hired "at the discretion of the Chief Officer".

The Thames Valley force teenagers are two years too young to join the regular police force. If they were offenders, they would be tried in juvenile rather than adult courts.

Yet they will have a string of powers, including the right to detain offenders, stop and search under terror laws, issue penalty notices for disorder and stop vehicles.


The development is the latest controversy to hit PCSOs, dubbed Blunkett's Bobbies after the Home Secretary who created them - but now being branded Blunkett's Babies.

I'm not thoroughly convinced that allowing 16 year-olds to work as police in any form is a good idea. But, with that being said, when I lived in a region adjoining that of the Thames Valley, it struck me that they did need a whole lot more police. Ideally, they'd be recruiting them from the adult population, but if that hasn't been possible, and the 16 year-olds are eager and any bit more mature than I was when I was 16, then maybe this isn't quite as bad as it looks. At the very least, these two 16 year-olds appear to be on a good career path at the moment-- something that a lot of 16 year-olds in Britain cannot say.


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