Ten years on with Police Community Support Officers in Sussex

Haven School. The Big Break-In. Children look at the footprint evidence with PCSO Martin Hylands.
Haven School. The Big Break-In. Children look at the footprint evidence with PCSO Martin Hylands.

Ten years ago, Eastbourne-based Martin Hylands became part of the first intake of Police Community Support Officers in Sussex.

A decade on, Martin still remains part of the organisation which celebrates its 10th anniversary on March 3.

“A good PCSO should be embedded in their community and with time you gain the trust and respect of all the community groups,” explained Martin. “Stability is vital in neighbourhood policing for the public to get to know their local PCSO, who is now the modern day beat bobby.

“Helping people is the most rewarding part of the job, be it just giving directions whilst on foot patrol to saving a life.

“I’m lucky enough to have done both whilst on duty in the last 10 years.

“I’ve even flown in Princess Anne’s helicopter whilst she was on a royal visit to Alfriston!”

Sussex Police now employs 362 PCSOs across the whole of Sussex, many in specialist roles including wildlife officers and school liaison.

In 2003, 21 men and women became the first ever intake of PCSOs in Sussex Police. Ten years on, six are still employed by the Force, four of whom are still in their original roles.

PC Will Sergi is the only original PCSO to have become a police constable. He already worked for the Force when the PCSO job descriptions were released and he “liked the idea of being part of something from the beginning that was potentially going to be around for some years to come”.

Working in Eastbourne, Will said that for the first couple of years the public just treated him as an officer, but as awareness of the role grew it changed his relationship within the community.

“Knowing that we were not warranted officers meant people seemed to see us as more approachable,” he explained.

After five years, Will decided to use the invaluable experience he had gained to apply to the force to become a constable. He is now based in Hailsham. “I feel that the skills I learnt as a PCSO have really helped me in my current role as it enables you to develop a high standard of ‘people skills’.

“This is probably due to the fact that you could find yourself in difficult situations because of the nature of the role, with very little personal protective equipment to fall back on - what you say can make all the difference.”

Providing a visible and reassuring presence for the public and strengthening strong working relationships within the community - that’s what Sussex Police promised 10 years ago when the first Community Support Officers took to the streets of Sussex.

Assistant Chief Constable Robin Merrett, who heads Neighbourhood Policing for Sussex Police, said: “The best way to sum up the difference that PCSOs have made is that it is difficult to imagine how we ever managed without them, both within policing and our communities.

“As I travel around Sussex to attend meetings with the public, I am regularly told incredibly positive stories about the work a particular PCSO has undertaken.

“Examples include assisting individuals who have been persistent victims of anti social behaviour, or listening to the needs of a community and then doing something positive with the information. People have told me how their local community has been transformed as a result of a PCSO’s work.

“PCSOs play a vital role in Neighbourhood Policing Teams; they are a visible and accessible presence. I am confident that PCSOs across all districts serve Sussex Police and their local neighbourhoods professionally and with dedication, taking responsibility for getting things done.

“As we celebrate 10 years of PCSOs in Sussex Police I would like to personally thank all of these officers, past and present, for the work they have done and the success they have delivered.”

Throughout the course of this week, numerous events will be taking place to mark the anniversary and herald the success of PCSOs in Sussex over the last 10 years. This includes a film of PCSOs, officers, police staff and members of the public talking about how the role has evolved, what a PCSO means to them and human interest stories.

There will be a number of ‘Meet the People’ events taking place across Sussex including a street meeting at The Drive in Hellingly at 10am on Monday, March 4, and PCSOs will be attending a Willingdon community coffee morning at Trinity Church in Coppice Avenue on Wednesday, March 6 at 10am. There will also be a street meeting at Camber Close in Pevensey Bay at 5pm on Thursday, March 7,