A veteran of a force’s first batch of police community support officers (PCSOs) has been thanked for the sterling role he and his colleagues provide.

Mick Casey was among just 13 new PCSOs when they were first admitted to the Northumbria force, in December 2003, 18-months after the role was given Royal Assent by the queen, as part of the Police Reform Act, on July 24, 2002.

The legislation paved the way for the first support officers to take to streets across the country, with a range of powers to assist police officers and act as a permanent presence within communities.

Pioneer PCSO Casey has proudly served the communities on Wearside since he was taken on in the then new post.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the creation of PCSOs, he was met by Northumbria’s Chief Constable, Winton Keenen, who thanked him personally for his service.

Read more: Durham Police welcomes new PCSOs

Chief Constable Keenen said: “It was a real pleasure to catch-up with PCSO Casey.

“I would like to extend my thanks to all of our PCSOs across the force who play a crucial role alongside our front-line officers, staff and volunteers, in protecting the public and ensuring the North East continues to be a safe place to live, work and visit.

“Over the last two decades, the role of a PCSO has changed somewhat, but what has remained constant is their passion, enthusiasm and desire to deliver an outstanding service to our communities.”

Reflecting on his policing journey so far, 55-year-old PCSO Casey admitted he was unsure what the role of a PCSO would entail.

But he is in no doubt it has provided him with some incredible memories and friendships ever since.

“Nobody really knew what the role would entail as it was brand new.

“But I’d spent the previous 20 years as a joiner, saw the opportunity and thought: ‘Let’s give it a try’.

“The whole idea was for PCSOs to patrol the foot beat, helping to bridge the gap between police and the public.

“Look at the name PCSO, it says police and community. We’re here to help both.”

For more than a decade, PCSO Casey has worked closely with organisations including the Salvation Army, Poplar House and the YMCA in Sunderland to help those who may be vulnerable and extend a hand of friendship.

“It’s been my life for the last 19 years,” he said.

“I’ve been working in Sunderland city centre so long and you naturally get to know so many people.

“Whether it’s people working in the shops, or coming and going from work every day, staff at the university or whole families who live here.

“Over time, you build up that trust and respect, you recognise people and they recognise you.

“In a way, as a PCSO, it doesn’t really feel like coming to work, which I’m incredibly lucky for.

“To be a good PCSO, you have to be a good communicator.

“You have to be able to talk to people and see things from other people’s viewpoints.

“There’s no point going into anything blinkered.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of people who’ve had hard knocks in life, or who are in a tough spot, but you go into each situation with the want to help them, to support them.

“I’ve found if you are good to people they are usually good to you back.”

PCSO Casey added: “It’s community policing at its best.

“There’s a greater demand on police officers now and sometimes it can be hard for them to stop and get to know people all the time.

“On busy days, you can go from one job to the next.

“But that’s what PCSOs can offer. We can take that extra time to help get somebody to hospital, or help someone find a bite to eat, stop and ask people how they’re getting on.

“If I deal with someone and they come away thinking: ‘Oh, Mick was nice’, then I’ve done my little bit to help build people’s trust in Northumbria Police as a whole.”

Two decades on from their creation, Northumbria Police now has more than 180 PCSOs playing a key role across the North East, with more to come under a new recruitment drive.

Anyone interested in pursuing a career with the force should visit careers.northumbria.police.uk to see the range of opportunities available.

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