Former postman PCSO Matt Duvall is one of the country’s first apprentice Police Community Support Officers. As a new recruit with the policing team in the Wealden district, he will train on the job and at the same time earn a professional qualification.
Tackling and preventing anti-social behaviour (ASB) will be a prominent part of Matt’s role as a PCSO. And while next week is ASB Week, when we raise the profile of what ASB is and how to report it, our PCSOs are tackling ASB every day countywide.
Matt will be taking part in high visibility patrols in hotspots, engaging with the community and partner organisations on a regular basis to help prevent ASB and deal with the perpetrators.
As an apprentice, Matt, who is also a retained firefighter in the Crowborough area, will work alongside his tutor, a full time PCSO, for the first 10 weeks before gaining independent patrol status.
Sussex Police and Surrey Police are the first forces in the country to introduce apprenticeships for PCSOs, which will eventually be rolled out across all 43 forces nationwide. A further 100 PCSO apprentices will be recruited by Sussex Police over the next year to strengthen local policing, thanks to the increased 2019 council tax precept. Recruitment will open for applications again in August.
Matt and his fellow PCSO apprentices, who joined teams across the county in the last week, have already had 12 weeks’ training at the county police HQ. They will continue to work towards a Level 4 Diploma in Community Policing over the next nine months while working full time in the community.
For Matt, the opportunity to work towards a professional qualification – the equivalent of a HNC or foundation degree – has been life-changing:
He said: “The apprenticeship means the world to me. I’ve wanted to join Sussex Police since I was a teenager, but as I left school with few qualifications I never thought I would be able to get in. Now I am eight months away from getting a Level 4 qualification.
“It’s so exciting doing a job I have wanted for over 20 years. I’m really enjoying being out in the community, putting my new knowledge and skills to the test. I have a second baby on the way, so doing this locally on the job makes a big difference.
“I’d particularly like to help the local kids to try and steer them in the right direction. I grew up on a council estate in East Grinstead so I know what goes on and what I can do to help.”
Fellow apprentice Barney Reed, an international Deaf Rugby Union player, joined the Prevention team in east Brighton last week and is looking forward to helping the community.
Barney said: “I’m loving being out on division. We’ve been out doing patrols in hot spots for anti-social behaviour in Whitehawk and the marina and attending jobs.”
“I’m enjoying getting to know the community. I want to be that friendly face to have a chat with. As PCSOs we are here to help the community and prevent crime. It’s through building relationships that we do that.
“I really looked up to officers when I was growing up, but as I have significant hearing loss, I never thought it possible I could become one. I struggled at school because of my hearing difficulties, but have always excelled practically.
“The apprenticeship and the equipment Sussex Police has provided, including an adapted earpiece for my hearing aids, has made it all possible.”
PCSOs play a vital part in keeping Sussex safe, carrying out activities proven to reduce crime and to protect the public.
The new diploma - which replaces the previous 5 week PCSO training - ensures recruits have the knowledge and skills necessary for 21st century policing. To reflect the complex and changing nature of crime, digital policing, protecting vulnerable people, problem solving and evidence-based policing are included in the curriculum.
“I feel like we have gained a more in-depth understanding of what we do and the important role PCSOs play within policing,” says PCSO Ellie Cogger, who has just joined the Hastings team.
“I am looking forward to changing the public perception of PCSOs and the police in general.”
As well as giving PCSOs a transferable qualification, the Diploma serves as a foundation year for the PC Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) being introduced nationally as an entry route for new constable recruits.
“Getting the Diploma will present us with more opportunities and career options,” says Barney. “In particular it gives you a path to continue on and become a PC.”
Julia Chapman, Assistant Chief Constable, said, “I am delighted we are offering this new qualification. We believe that by offering an apprenticeship we can appeal to those who may not have considered policing as a career choice in the past.”
“The opportunity to gain a professional qualification will also ensure policing remains an attractive and competitive career option.
“For our local prevention teams, every week is ASB Week. With the 100 extra PCSO apprentices we are recruiting over the next year, we will be able to strengthen our reach into communities, providing a more visible and accessible policing presence. Our aim is to engage with the public and deter and tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.
“I am pleased to report that the first cohort of PCSO apprentices paid for by the increase in council tax have just started their initial training at the county police HQ this week, and we are opening again for recruitment in August.”
“I am confident that with these additional frontline PCSOs, we will be in the best position to achieve our aim of keeping our communities safe and feeling safe.”
Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, said:
“I’m pleased that these PCSOs are now ready to launch their careers with Sussex Police and help to keep us all safer.
“Residents continue to tell me how much they value their PCSOs and the unique relationship that they develop with the local communities they serve.
“These PCSOs are also amongst the first in the UK to undergo the new 12-month apprenticeship scheme, with a robust training and shadowing package, that will prepare them for their important role of visible policing and crime prevention across the county.”