I just thought I would have an input on what its like to be a PCSO before start...I originally applied as a MET police officer in July 2008 but unfortunately I missed out by 1%. As a result I was offered the role of PCSO or Special...of course I wanted to be paid so I chose PCSO.
I saw the offer as an oppurtunity to take a step in the right direction. I would have had to have waited another 6 months to re-apply and then more time to go through all the stages, so it felt better to do it this way. I was hesitant at first, because I know that PCSOs do get a battering in the press all the time, and some members of the public believe that they are pointless, but I think its a great role for the police. They say PCSOs build bridges in the community and I think thats true.
In just 3 months I've learnt a lot already. I've dealt with a variety of situations. As for the solo patrols, I posted up there^^^ that during the day my team patrol alone. This doesnt cause us much problems. I cover a reasonably small patch, as Im on a town centre transport hub team (covering all the bus stops/bus routes in and out etc). And the couple of times that I have had a problem on my own, the team has come running within a minute anyway.
For PCSOs that cover larger areas and possibly further away from the main towns, I can imagine it could be a little harder to get a response 'immediately'...but we're told if you really can't keep control of the situation on your own and there won't be a unit with you for 5 mins then 'tacticly withdraw' and keep everyone updated on the radio as to what is going on so once back up arrives everyone knows what to expect.
A lot of people have said that there is always an unhealthy feeling between PCs and PCSOs, but Ive not come across a single PC that has said a bad word about PCSOs. They know that PCSOs do make a difference and do free them up to get on with the serious side of the job.
There are a few things I dont like...mainly the fact that I cannot stop and search someone myself. I think some other forces in the UK do allow PCSOs to search. In the MET we cannot, I can simply stop a person & ask them to account for their actions. Should I decide that they need to be turned over, I have to call in a unit to come and search them. It does get quite frustrating when I have to wait 10 minutes for a unit simply to go through someones pockets. It usually agitates the person Ive stopped, and - at the same time - wastes valuable time the PCs have. Would be a lot easier for us to search people.
Anyway, Im going to apply again for PC at the beginning of next year, and hopefully move on in time for the olympics in 2012