Police community support officers (PCSOs) have a standard set of powers which allow them to maintain their largely non-confrontational community engagement role whilst contributing to neighbourhood policing by dealing with low-level disorder and anti-social behaviour.  PCSOs can also be designated with additional discretionary powers at by their chief officer of police.


Part 1 of Sched 4 Police Reform Act 2002 (PRA) introduced powers for PCSOs. Initially all powers were discretionary and could be designated by chief officers of police in England and Wales to PCSOs within their force area under s38 of the PRA.

Further discretionary powers were added by:

A standard set of powers available to all PCSOs was introduced by:

  • s7 of the Police and Justice Act 2006. This inserts s38A into the PRA 2002 to introduce a standard set of powers and duties to apply to all PCSOs. This standard set commenced 1st December 2007.  See The Police Reform Act 2002 (Standard Powers and Duties of Community Support Officers) Order 2007

For a full description of standard and discretionary powers referred to below, and legislation to these powers see 'List of powers for PCSO's and 'Home Office circular 33/2007' on Home Office PCSO web pages (link below).

Standard powers

Issue certain fixed penalty notices:
Cycling on the footpath, littering and dog control order offences).
For further detail see Fixed penalty notices for environmental offences

Powers to photograph
Photograph persons away from the police station who have been arrested, detained or given a fixed penalty notice

Power to require name and address for certain offences:
Relevant offences attracting fixed penalty notices
Failure to disperse
For anti-social behaviour - causing injury, alarm or distress to another person
Loss of or damage to another person’s property
Relevant licensing offences
Possession of illegal drugs
Road traffic offences
For further detail see  PCSOs’ power to require name and address, and detain

Power to seize and dispose
Tobacco from a person under 16 (Only if on open display. Does not give the power to search)

Power to require surrender of alcohol
Surrender of alcohol by persons under 18
Surrender of alcohol by persons drinking in designated places

Vehicle and traffic powers
Seize vehicles (driven carelessly, inconsiderately or illegally) which are causing alarm and distress
Remove abandoned or broken down vehicles illegally parked or causing obstruction or danger
Direct traffic for the purposes other than escorting a load of exceptional dimensions
Place traffic signs
Carry out road checks

Other powers
Stop cycles if the rider has cycled on a footpath
Enforce cordoned areas
Stop and search in authorised areas (under the Terrorism Act 2000. Only in authorised areas and under the supervision of a constable) and following PACE code A
Enter and search premises to save life and limb or prevent serious damage to property2


Discretionary powers

A PCSO may be designated any of the individual powers listed under headings below at the discretion of their chief officer of police.

Power to issue certain penalty notices for disorder
See PCSO standard powers Home Office Circular 033/2007 for attached 'Annex PCSO Standard Powers Circular '.
See also Penalty notices for disorder on this site.

Power to issue fixed penalty notices
Excluded pupil found in a public place
Graffiti and fly-posting

Power to use reasonable force
To prevent a detained person making off
To transfer control of detained persons

Power to remove
Children in contravention of curfew notices to their place of residence
Truants to designated premises
Disperse groups and remove persons under 16 to their place of residence

Power to detain
Detain a person for 30 minutes who is suspected of a relevant offence and who fails to give their name and address or is suspected of giving false information

Vehicle powers
Stop vehicles for testing
Direct traffic for the purpose of escorting abnormal loads

Power to enforce
Certain licensing offences
Begging and request name and address
Park trading offences (Metropolitan Police Force only)

Power to search
For alcohol and tobacco
A detained persons for dangerous items or items that could be used to assist escape

Power to seize
Seize drugs and require name and address for possession. Power to detain for non-compliance.

Power to enter
Licensed premises (limited power) to investigate relevant licensing offences.3

See PCSOs’ power to require name and address, and detain


  1. s38 (8) Where any power exercisable by any person in reliance on his designation under this section is a power which, in the case of its exercise by a constable, includes or is supplemented by a power to use reasonable force, any person exercising that power in reliance on that designation shall have the same entitlement as a constable to use reasonable force
    However, there is still a designated to use reasonable for to detain in para. 4 Schedule 4 PRA2002
  2. s38(9) PRA 2002 says designated power to use force to enter any premises can only be done in company and under supervision of a constable or for purpose of saving life or limb or preventing serious damage to property
  3. May not enter clubs and must enter all premises with a constable unless the premises are licensed for the sale of alcohol off the premises.


Get Adobe© Acrobat© Reader. Opens adobe.com in a new window

To be able to open PDF files you will need to download Adobe© Acrobat©

Visit Adobe© Access