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Specialist civilians to help police investigate financial and cyber crimes

Civilians will help investigate crime under a major expansion of the role of police volunteers unveiled by Home Secretary Theresa May.

Forces will be able to enlist members of the public who specialise in computing or accountancy for cyber and financial inquiries.

Mrs May is expected to announce a package of measures giving chief constables the power to hand more responsibility to support staff and volunteers.

The proposals were unveiled last year in a government consultation which raised the prospect of creating uniformed police community support volunteers (PCSVs) and suggested civilians could c ould carry out tasks such as interviewing victims and taking witness statements.

Officials have now confirmed that reforms will be taken forward to enable bosses to confer a wider range of powers on civilian staff and volunteers, with full details due to be set out in a government response to the consultation published later.

It will also confirm the abolition of the role of police traffic warden.

Mrs May said the Government is "committed to finishing the job of police reform".

She said: " Police officers across the country carry out a wide range of duties, keeping the public safe and ensuring justice for the most vulnerable members of society. We value the essential role they play, but they cannot do this on their own.

"We want to help forces to create a more flexible workforce, bring in new skills and free up officers' time to focus on the jobs only they can carry out.

"At the same time, we want to encourage those with skills in particular demand, such as those with specialist IT or accountancy skills, to work alongside police officers to investigate cyber or financial crime, and help officers and staff fight crime more widely."

Civilians have been able to exercise the full range of police powers for almost 200 years in the shape of special constables.

Those wishing to volunteer their time currently have two alternatives - become a special or a police support volunteer who has no powers and works mainly in a supporting role.

The measures will allow volunteers to be given powers without becoming a Special Constable for the first time, while also specifying a core list of powers reserved for police officers.

These are expected to include making arrests, carrying out stop and searches and all powers under counter-terrorism legislation.

Under the new regime, chiefs will be able to designate volunteers with powers in the same way as they can with police staff in the current model.

Dave Jones, National Police Chiefs' Council lead for citizens in policing, said: "The new approach to designating police powers will help the police service be more flexible when it comes to attracting and deploying volunteers with valuable skills, especially in situations where the full powers of a constable are not necessary.

"The onus on chief constables is to use the powers wisely, ensure they fit the needs of local policing and provide appropriate training so that they help us keep our communities safe."

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham said the move sounds like a "back-door means" of filling cuts and "could lead to policing on the cheap".

He added: "The Home Secretary needs to provide assurance that it won't lead to standards being compromised or corners cut.

"The concern is that these volunteers will not be checked or trained in the same way as those who volunteer as Special Constables.

"The simple truth is that communities can't rely on a part-time police force.

"We have already seen thousands of police and civilian jobs lost and there are more on the way.

"The police service is an essential public service and cannot be provided on a voluntary basis."

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