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Police duties may be cut to save cash, says Wiltshire Police chief
WILTSHIRE Chief Constable Patrick Geenty is ready to stop his officers from delivering death messages, policing remembrance parades and chasing stray dogs to help trim another £12m from his budget over the next three years.
Continual Coalition Government cuts to the police budget have forced him to look at every task carried out by his officers and consider cutting back on jobs he feels should not have to be done by them.
“I cannot expect to make cuts of more than £22m over five years and expect my staff to carry on doing the same thing,” he said.
“We have to look at the things that we do almost by default and ask whether we should be doing them.”
Among the jobs he has identified are officers delivering messages to families whose loved ones have died.
“Obviously if someone has died in Edinburgh and the family lives in Wiltshire that is one thing and it is quite right that we do that,” Mr Geenty said.
“But there are many other instances where it is left to my officers and we are asking why. The health service is a very large organisation and has much more capacity.”
He is also looking at public events, such as Remembrance Day parades, where officers provide free cover.
“I know this is a sensitive area,” he said. “But we provide cover at the bigger events and on the 11th there are hundreds across Wiltshire. This can have a big effect on shift patterns because we also have to have cover for everything else.”
He is worried that officers spend too much time on calls that don’t necessarily need police there, such as school incidents.
“You can have a fight in a playground. One child gets scratched and the police are called in. Should they be there? Can’t the school deal with it?” he said.
“If one has a broken nose that is different but not for scratches. We have had calls like that regularly and if we get involved then there has to be an investigation. I don’t want to criminalise young people.”
Mr Geenty wants to discuss the issue with other chief constables and then approach partner organisations.
One concern is the amount of calls to hospitals and to deal with patients suffering mental illness. He cited an example of an ambulance crew calling police to help them carry an overweight patient downstairs.
“There are occasions when we are called to deal with a fight in a hospital but they have their own security,” he said.
“We are also asked to assist with people in their own homes who may be mentally ill. I’m not sure this is good for the patient if they are taken into custody when they should be helped by someone qualified.”
Other areas where he will look at reducing police cover are rounding up stray dogs, petrol thefts from garages, dealing with abandoned vehicles when they are not stolen or causing an obstruction, dealing with lost property and guarding crime scenes, which Mr Geenty believes could be contracted out to a private security firm.
He said: “We are asking why we should be left to do some of these jobs when they are not our responsibility. I don’t want to do this but this economic situation is forcing me to consider it.”
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