WILTSHIRE Police's chief constable has released a statement in response to reports that the county's force will lose a number of officers due to severe reductions in funding from central government.
An Advertiser article from January 15 suggested a baseline of 1,000 officers has been set in place by the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, below which point the force would not be able to operate in the correct capacity. This comes after a reduction of 13 per cent in the number of officers based in Wiltshire and Swindon since 2010, with further cuts expected to be made to the current number of 1,060 officers across the county.
Chief Constable Patrick Geenty said: “I have made it very clear to the commissioner in initial conversations that although it may be possible to run Wiltshire Police with 1,000 officers, it is certainly not something that I am happy with. I believe it would be very hard for us to maintain the level of service we currently do with 1,000 officers and that is one of the reasons why I urged our Commissioner to put in for a higher increase in the policing element of the council tax than the 1.99 per cent that has been agreed.
“Operating with 1,000 officers would not only mean it may potentially be hard to maintain services, but would also be very difficult indeed for our officers and staff.
“We have had to be very innovative in re-organising the way we deliver policing in Wiltshire to meet the demanding cuts that are required of us by Government.
“I have a firm view of the number of police officers currently needed to police Wiltshire and we will maintain our present number of police officers in the county until such time that the review of our operational model has been completed. At that stage I will be very firm in advising the Commissioner of the optimum number of officers we need to police Wiltshire safely in the future.
The chief constable added that three-year reduction figures suggested by a BBC online article were projected over a longer period of time and that the current number of officers would be maintained, in the short term at least.
He said: “Furthermore, the decrease of 173 officers that has been referred to is in fact over a period of six years (2010/11 – 2016/17). It was agreed in the Commissioners Police and Crime plan (March 2013) that the number of Police Officers we required was 1062 and that is the number we currently have today on our establishment. We have also recently re-opened police recruitment processes in order to maintain this.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson added: “We are not talking about cutting 173 police officers, I budgeted for 1,062 last year in line with my Police and Crime Plan.
“Since then 29 police officer posts have been freed-up for frontline policing through regional efficiencies – roads policing, firearms and dogs – through working collaboratively with Avon and Somerset and Gloucestershire forces.
“That takes the number of police officers to 1,033. Furthermore an on-going review and other efficiencies will mean a further reduction of management posts.
“I am sure this, combined with future collaboration will take us very close to an establishment of about 1,000 police officers.
“I am committed to preserving the number of officers on the frontline (neighbourhood and response) and continue to have complete confidence that the Chief Constable will continue to keep Wiltshire safe.”