Budget cuts have left police exhausted says Hampshire’s chief constable

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POLICE and staff are ‘exhausted’ as multi-million-pound budget cuts push the force to the limit, Hampshire’s top officer has revealed.

Chief constable Andy Marsh said he would be ‘neglectful’ if he did not redesign operational policing in a bid to save an extra £25m by April 2017 and protect ‘essential policing services’.

Andy Marsh,  the Hampshire Chief Constable

Andy Marsh, the Hampshire Chief Constable

The force will have already saved £55m by April following a raft of cuts including 448 officer and 436 staff posts.

Meanwhile, crime has continued to fall and the rate of crimes solved has risen.

But the latest government cuts mean even more posts face the axe.

Mr Marsh said: ‘Front-line officers and police staff say they are exhausted.

‘They are working rest days or double shifts because they care about the service they offer to the public, but this is unsustainable.’

Mr Marsh has vowed to maintain Safer Neighbourhoods Teams in every area of the force.

But he warned difficult decisions lie ahead as the public are consulted via Hampshire police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes on services they want to see retained.

Mr Marsh warned: ‘The time has come where we can’t commit to be all things to all people. There is a risk with contracting public service budgets across the board that unmanaged demand ends up at the doorstep of the police.’

Proposals could see some calls being resolved at the point of handling rather than sending officers.

The mix of police officers and staff handling calls will be reviewed.

People calling about issues such as noise nuisance could be directed to other services instead of receiving a police response.

And the force will consider whether more low-level offenders can be dealt with differently, such as with an interview on the spot and a community resolution in which the two parties resolve the dispute without going to court.

But Mr Marsh vowed officers will always be deployed to emergencies, where safety or property is at risk or a crime is being committed.

And criminals will always be detained where necessary to protect the public or gather evidence. He said: ‘We will always respond to emergencies, we will always investigate lines of enquiry and catch criminals and monitor offenders and we will always do out utmost to protect vulnerable people.’

As reported, four Chief Superintendents will take up roles to help redesign the way the force operates on Monday.

Federation warns there are ‘not enough officers to go around’

BOLD plans to restructure operational policing locally have been welcomed by Hampshire’s police federation chairman who said: ‘We haven’t got enough officers to go around’.

John Apter said ‘tough conversations’ with the public about what they should expect from police are to come as Hampshire Constabulary battles to save an extra £25m by April 2017 due to government spending cuts.

Mr Apter said: ‘There is a tipping point and officers are at it.

‘There is no resilience at all in the system and we have got to radically reshape and rethink how we do things.

He added: ‘We can do things completely differently and drastically differently but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be worse.’

‘The public have relied too much on a police officer turning up even if it’s just for reassurance, which is really important, but it’s not sustainable.’

Public urged to have their say on constabulary

THE public will be fully consulted on plans to revamp policing in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, the police and crime commissioner has vowed.

Simon Hayes said a close look at the way the force operates is ‘necessary’ to see how its responsibility to keep people safe can be met.

Mr Hayes said: ‘I want the public to know what is happening.

‘I don’t want there to be a situation where people think things are going on behind closed doors.’

He added: ‘People need to have confidence that the policing they are getting is robust and it is what they want as far as we can deliver with reduced money, which is the reality.’

Meanwhile chief constable Andy Marsh has commended officers and staff for contributing to a drop in crime while battling multi-million-pound cuts.

But he said the revamp means tough decisions are ahead.

Mr Marsh said: ‘The constabulary has done a great job. We have already saved a substantial amount of money and crime has continued to fall and we have improved public satisfaction at the same time.

‘How confident am I that we can continue to deliver good policing outcomes over the next five years within the money that we predict is going to be available if we continue working the way we are at the moment, and taking percentage points off here and there? I’m not confident and it would be remiss of me not to step back and have a proper assessment of the way in which we work and what we do.’