Community Support Officer (Detention Power) Pilot

Crime Solutions

Community Support Officer (Detention Power) Pilot

The Police Reform Act 2002 gives new Community Support
Officers the power to detain someone they suspect has committed an
offence for up to 30 minutes. When this power was first introduced
there was concern that it might not be practical or useful to
enforce. A pilot was established in 6 areas to evaluate the
operation of the new power. This publication reports on the findings
of this study.

Title: Community Support Officer (Detention Power) Pilot:
Evaluation Results
Author: Lawrence Singer (Home Office)
Number of pages: 14
Date published: September 2004

The Police Reform Act 2002 makes provision for Community Support
Officers to be designated with the power of detention. Where a CSO
has reason to believe that a person has committed a relevant offence
he or she may require that person to supply their name or address. A
relevant offence is defined as either a fixed penalty offence or an
offence which has caused injury or alarm to another person or the
loss of or damage to property.

If the individual concerned refuses to give a name or address or
the CSO suspects that the details that have been given are false
then the CSO may ‘require the person to wait with them for up to 30
minutes pending the arrival of a constable’. Alternatively the CSO
may accompany the person to a police station with that person’s
agreement. Any person who fails to wait with the CSO as required or
who tries to make off is guilty of an offence. CSOs may use
reasonable force in order to detain a person, but they are not
supplied with handcuffs, batons or CS spray.

The evaluation involved six police forces undertaking a pilot
that covered a 15-month period from January 2003 to March 2004. The
participating forces provided a wide range of policing environments
from urban through suburban to rural contexts. The focus of the
evaluation on five specific aspects relating to the detention event:

  • the time and place of the detention

  • the reason for the detention

  • the level of cooperation between the CSO and detainee

  • the outcome of the detention

  • the characteristics of the detainees

A very brief outline of the conclusion for each of these aspects
is given below and more detail can be found in the full

In summary, the findings from the evaluation are very positive
with no indication of there being a significant risk to either the
CSO or the detainee as a consequence of the exercise of the power to


Shops and residential areas accounted for most of the locations
where detention took place.

Time of day

Most detentions took place during daylight hours, with afternoons
seeing more detentions that evenings.

Cause of detention

The causes of detention were quite varied. The most frequent
causes cited were anti-social behaviour, theft or general suspicious

Level of co-operation

Most detainees co-operated with the CSO, and generally levels of
co-operation were better at the end of the detention that at the


In around half of all cases the detainee was arrested on the
arrival of a police officer. Of the remaining possible outcomes,
most were either released after providing a satisfactory name and
address or released after the arrival of a police officer.

Characterics of detainees

Around two-thirds of detainees were aged between 10 and 24 years,
almost 85% were male and almost 80% were white. Analysis of age,
ethnic background and gender of detainees found no significant bias
in relation to reason for detention, whether the detainee was
reported to be abusive, or the final outcome of the detention.

Getting a copy

Community Support Officer (Detention Power) Pilot: Evaluation
from the Home Office RDS website
PDF 129Kb

Last update: 1 October 2004

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