As the nation went into lockdown and the county readied itself for the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, new recruit PCSO Tara Reid McCoy was just about to start her new career on the streets of Hastings.
Along with 33 fellow PCSO apprentices, Tara was deployed a few weeks early on March 30th to help boost the county effort to protect the NHS and save lives.
“We were so eager to get out there and help,” says Tara, who is now part of the Hastings Prevention Team. “We had already done two weeks shadowing with our teams out on the streets, and really wanted to do our bit to support the community and NHS.”
Adrian Rutherford, Director of Peoples Services said: “To help the nationwide effort to contain the virus and save lives, we took the decision to deploy this cohort of PCSOs three weeks early to boost our local policing teams. We also prepared our PC trainees for early deployment, if that had become necessary.”
The 34 PCSOs had completed the major part of their initial 12 week training at Police HQ and by consolidating the more important elements of training and rescheduling other elements until later in the year, the recruits were able to rejoin their tutors in community policing teams earlier than expected.
Heading out to their new policing teams in the next few weeks are also 61 new police constable apprentices. They have had to adapt their training to meet social distancing guidelines and that has included classroom-based training at home through online learning and video conferencing.
Mr Rutherford says: “Despite the challenging environment we are pleased to say our recruitment and training of new PCs and PCSOs is 100 per cent on track, ensuring we continue to get new officers out on the streets.
“Through working with the College of Policing and embracing technology, our training team have been creative in ensuring our students can still fully engage with their learning programmes, tutors and colleagues while at home.
“Trainees still come to HQ for practical elements of their programme like scenario training and personal safety training, with appropriate social distancing and other measures in place.
“With these 61 PCs about to join their policing teams and another 70 PC apprentices due to start training next month, I am pleased to say we are still well on our way to achieving the expected increase of 129 officers by March 2021.”
PCSO Reid McCoy has now been on the streets of Hastings for six weeks, where she is continuing her apprenticeship alongside her tutor.
Just a few weeks into her career she was highly praised by her chief officers for her professionalism, confidence and resilience in helping in the arrest of what Police describe as an “abusive non-compliant individual”.
Tara says: “I think going in at the deep end, as we have at this time, has been a positive thing. I have drawn a lot of confidence from it. You don’t know how you will deal with a situation until you are in it.
“Understandably it’s been a challenging time for everybody – especially before the restrictions were eased – so it’s made such a difference when the public are appreciative and supportive. One day we were walking past a hostel and the people outside applauded, which felt really nice.
“I’ve always wanted to be a police officer since I was a child, as some police officers helped myself and my family when I was younger. As a PCSO you get to deal with things in slow time; you go into a problem, seeing the bigger picture, and help to change people’s lives.”
Fellow Hastings recruit, PCSO Maria Barraclough, was inspired by her son, a response officer in Brighton, to join up after working as a security guard at Gatwick for many years she says: “I was concerned I was too old to join but my son would keep pointing out how my life experience would hold me in good stead for dealing with the kind of incidents he was.
“I’m glad I made the leap as I’m really enjoying it. Obviously with the new regulations and explaining them to the public, that has been a challenge but I am always alongside my tutor, PCSO Liam Janman, so you learn on the job.
“I love that every day is different. One minute you are patrolling the town centre and the next minute you are dealing with a neighbourhood dispute”
Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “The lockdown has meant that we have all had to adapt and change our ways of working. Sussex Police are no exception to this and I’m incredibly impressed by how they have stepped up to the challenge. They have found new ways to recruit and train both PCSOs and police officers so that we stay 100% on track with our plans to further strengthen our frontline during this crisis and beyond.
“The police are now not only here to uphold the law but they are also playing a crucial role in supporting the public health measures to keep us all safe. By working hard to get new recruits ready for early deployment, senior officers have made sure that they are out patrolling our streets as soon as possible.
“I want to thank everyone who applied to join and wish those who are just beginning their career with Sussex Police, the very best of luck.”
* There are six PC coaching units throughout Sussex at stations in Bexhill, Polegate, Brighton, Horsham, Worthing and Bognor.