Training to become a PCSO
PCSOs go through a 10 week training programme before they are allocated to a Neighbourhood Policing Team. Our Learning & Development team have described what happens in that crucial first few weeks.
We run a 10 week training course that covers a whole range of topics to prepare PCSOs for their duties. To start with we give an introduction to the police service, which can often seem quite an alien world when you start. We’re really trying to get across the ethics and dynamics of being part of the police. It’s a different mindset to being a civilian.
Your training will be a mixture of classroom based learning and on the job training with an experienced PCSO (tutor), to bring to life what you will learn in a classroom environment. You will spend 10 weeks within a classroom environment, and you will then go out to a Neighbourhood Policing Team and spend 10 weeks with your tutor.
The training we give PCSOs is about knowledge, understanding and skills, but it’s also about attitudes and behaviours. You can’t be a good PCSO if you don’t understand yourself, and if you aren’t prepared to try to understand other people. You need that emotional intelligence. We also teach people how to present themselves to the public. The job of a PCSO is to be out in the community, so every PCSO is an ambassador for North Yorkshire Police and the service generally.
Obviously we teach people about the law, but we link the legislation back to some of the real-life issues that PCSOs will face out in the community – things such as domestic violence or dealing with people who have mental health problems. It’s a very practical approach.
Being a PCSO is about problem-solving, engagement and being aware of different perspectives, so during your period of tutorship, you will encounter a number of scenarios, such as public order offences, or suspicious activity. The trainees really don’t know what they’re going to be faced with, so it’s a good opportunity to put into practice everything they have learnt in the classroom. The tutor will assess how the trainees deal with each incident.
An important part of being a PCSO is working with community groups and agencies – after you learn about specific subjects within your training, we will arrange for you to attend a relevant placement as part of your on the job learning. We have had PCSOs do placements at the Salvation Army, with disability or homeless charities, with domestic abuse services and many other organisations.
Often this turns out to be a real eye-opener for the trainees, because when you actually take the time to talk to people and understand their problems, it can challenge your preconceptions.
In fact, at the end of the course, we ask trainees how they feel they have changed as a result of the course. Many people say they are more confident in themselves, but also that their view of the world, and of people, has changed. They are less naïve, but also more open-minded.
Training to be a PCSO is enjoyable, but it is not an easy ride, and it isn’t for everybody. There is a classroom element to the training, and that can be hard if you have been out of formal education for a while. You also have to do some work at home, so it is demanding on your time. Some people also find the nature of the work challenging. As a PCSO you are sometimes exposed to the darker side of life – things you may not have encountered before. You need to have empathy to do the job, but also the professionalism and resilience to deal with difficult situations.
After 10 weeks, you will attend a passing out ceremony, where we will celebrate your achievements within your initial training, with friends and family. After this time you will join one of our Neighbourhood Policing Teams, undertake a 10 week period of tutorship with an experienced colleague and then provide evidence towards their SOLAP (Student Officer Learning and Assessment Portfolio) in order to complete your probationary period after 9 months of service.
MAKING THE GRADE: Pictured – one of our latest groups of PCSOs outside Alverton Court, Northallerton with CI Allan Wescott and their trainers.