Today, Saturday 3rd February, marks the 15 year anniversary of our very first Community Support Officer intake in Gwent. On Monday 3rd February 2003, 15 Community Support Officers started a brand new role within the Force and since then, the role has been an integral part of neighbourhood policing.
We currently have 151 Community Support Officers (CSOs) in Gwent and they work within each community area to make our communities safer and stronger by performing one of the most demanding roles in the modern Police Force. CSOs can't make arrests and they don’t carry handcuffs or other items carried by Police Officers. They rely on their ability to understand and communicate with some of the most challenging people in some of the most difficult situations.
One of the CSOs who started on that intake 15 years ago was Lisa Gibbs who was stationed in Tredegar and Bargoed before moving to Bedwas where she has worked ever since, building strong community links and local knowledge.
Lisa said, “When the role was first advertised 15 years ago, it wasn't a job I'd thought of doing initially. My friend applied and when I found out more about the role I was interested and submitted an application. Looking back now, I'm so glad I took the time to apply.
“A few things have changed in the last 15 years – we used to wear a blue shirt and tie whereas now we don’t wear a tie and our tops are more practical. We also used paper pocket notebooks to record any incidents whereas we now use Samsung devices as electronic pocket notebooks and also use these devices to check our systems such as the Police National Computer which we can do from anywhere while we’re out on patrol.
“I started work in Tredegar and at that point, the communities didn’t really know much about our role which was brand new, so it was a challenge to convince them we were there to help. We were and still are the eyes and ears in our local communities and aim to tackle local community concerns such as anti-social behaviour and illegal parking issues. We also work within our local schools alongside St Johns Cymru to give first aid training to Year 5 pupils which is very rewarding.
“I’ve since worked in Bargoed and Bedwas and I’ve learnt that no two communities are the same. I’ve just tried to use my experience from place to place but communication and people skills really are our biggest tools. We all work as a team and work closely with our police officer colleagues and I would highly recommend this role to anyone thinking of applying.”
Due to her knowledge and experience in the role, Lisa is currently working alongside new CSO Becky Llewellyn Ennis who started her training as a CSO in October 2017 and started work in Bedwas in December 2017.
Becky said, “I joined Gwent Police after spending ten years as part of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service. I was excited to try out a new role in another emergency service and share some of my ideas on collaborative working, engagement days and crime reduction. I joined Bedwas in mid-December and so far no two days have been the same – I really like that about the role.
“I have been involved in action days such as Operation Rudolph, which was aimed at shop lifting and purse thefts in the Caerphilly town centre area. Bedwas is a great place to work as it has a real variety of experiences with the town and residential areas and it’s always busy with lots going on. I am thoroughly enjoying my work and have been welcomed to the station by an amazing team at Bedwas. I’m looking forward to see how the role develops and what my future holds at Gwent Police.”
Policing Lead for Community Support Officers across Wales, Deputy Chief Constable Pam Kelly explains: "Community Support Officers have made a huge difference to communities across Wales. Every day they provide a visible presence in our communities, they gather information that helps us deal with local and serious organised crime matters. I would like to thank those people that have been CSOs and in particular thank those that have remained as CSOs since the role started 15 years ago.
"CSOs are funded predominately by the Welsh Government and this funding is crucial to ensuring that CSOs continue with their visible and reassuring roles in the community.”
Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services, Alun Davies said, “Since their arrival in Wales 15 years ago, Community Support Officers have made a really important contribution to society by keeping the communities they serve safe. CSOs have become well known to their communities, by engaging with people, providing reassurance and tackling low-level anti-social behaviour. Thank you all and happy birthday.”
Congratulations to all of our Community Support Officers on this special day and thank you for all of your commitment to working within our communities.