A police force which axed all of its Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) is hiring civilians on zero hours contracts to guard crime scenes.
Norfolk Police said the new “scene guards”, reported to be paid about £10 an hour, would help at “certain low risk” crime scenes.
The role was introduced to “free up officer time for more complex inquiries and investigations”, it added.
Guarding crime scenes forms part of a PCSO role.
Norfolk Police axed all 150 of its PCSOs last year – the first force to do so – and said the money saved would allow them to be replaced with “a virtually identical amount of police officers” in the next year.
Criticising the plans, Norwich South MP Clive Lewis wrote on Twitter: “The gig economy reaches our police forces. This sounds like a really, really, really bad idea for so many reasons…”
Andy Symonds, chairman of the Norfolk Police Federation, said police officers were “highly trained” and scrutinised by the Independent Office of Police Conduct.
Mr Symonds said: “What happens if a scene guard on a zero hours contract has in some way contributed to a collapse of a criminal trial?”
In a statement, Norfolk Police said it would carry out a “thorough evaluation” after the pilot and only continue with the scene guards “if there is an evidence base to demonstrate the proposal is effective”.
It said the move was part of the force’s “bold plans to radically change our policing model”.
“Scene guards will have zero hours contracts and, when required, will assist at police cordons at certain low risk crime or incident scenes which need to have a visible police presence on a 24/7 basis while investigations are completed,” Norfolk Police added.
A Home Office spokesman said such decisions were for chief constables and police and crime commissioners (PCCs), who were best placed with their local knowledge and experience.