A police force which axed all of its PCSOs is hiring civilians on zero hours contracts to guard crime scenes.
Norfolk Police said the new “scene guards”, reportedly to be paid around £10 an hour, would help at “certain low risk” crime scenes.
The force, which got rid of all 150 of its police community support officers (PCSOs) last year, said the scene guards would free up officer time.
Guarding crime scenes forms part of a PCSO’s role.
A force spokesman said the money saved by axing PCSOs would allow the force to replace them with “a virtually identical amount of police officers” in the next year.
“Following significant reinvestment in frontline police officers, the pilot of a scene guard role was introduced to free up officer time for more complex inquiries and investigations,” the force said in a statement. “In some cases it may even remove the need for overtime.
“Following the pilot, the constabulary will conduct a thorough evaluation and only progress the civilian scene guards initiative further if there is an evidence base to demonstrate the proposal is effective.”
The force said a review had shown that “this particular duty could be performed without a policing warrant, leaving police officers to deal with greater threats to the community”.
“Scene guards will have zero hours contracts and, when required, will assist at police cordons at certain low risk crime or incident scenes which need to have a visible police presence on a 24/7 basis while investigations are completed,” the statement continued.
“Duties could include preserving the integrity of the crime/incident scene, running a scene log, detailing everyone entering/leaving the scene and dealing with initial enquiries from members of the public and media.”
It said the move was part of the force’s “bold plans to radically change our policing model” which would improve its service “and at the same time have the flexibility to tackle the more invisible, but incredibly harmful, crimes that cause long term damage to society”.
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis criticised the plans for civilians on zero hours contracts to guard crime scenes, writing on Twitter: “The gig economy reaches our police forces.
“This sounds like a really, really, really bad idea for so many reasons…”
Andy Symonds, chairman of the Norfolk Police Federation, told the Eastern Daily Press he would be “concerned” if the role of scene guard was broadened in future.