Two 16-year-olds have been recruited as police community support officers with the authority to detain and question suspects.
The pair, just out of school, will join foot patrols from a 'busy' police station.
The move by Thames Valley Police has triggered a row about public safety and allegations that forces - and the Government - are trying to "police on the cheap".
The teenagers are two years too young to join the regular police force. If they were offenders, they would be tried in juvenile rather than adult courts.Yet they will have a string of powers, including the right to detain offenders, stop and search under terror laws, issue penalty notices for disorder and stop vehicles.