Whenever jobs cuts in the police force are proposed, there has to be concern. Particularly when the only justification appears to be to save money.
Today we report how plans by Hampshire and Thames Valley forces to share vital services would see a total of 119 posts axed.
The bean counters have done their sums and reckon that a joint operations unit covering roads policing, firearms and operations support – including dogs and training – will save the two forces up to £6.7m a year by April 2012.
It all looks very efficient on paper – much like the other police announcement in today’s News that more than a third of stations in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight could eventually shut, with officers working from other locations.
But at what cost to real-life policing? Let’s take roads as an example.
Not surprisingly, the police seek to reassure us that the public will not notice any difference in roads policing by either force.
They maintain incidents will still be responded to in exactly the same way, but officers involved may be from a neighbouring force in areas where borders are shared – particularly in the north of the county.
Yet can 119 more police officer posts disappear from the two forces without having an effect?
We have our doubts. In Portsmouth the speed cameras have been switched off after Portsmouth City Council decided to withdraw funding for them.
Although we have a 20mph speed limit on some roads in the city, it is virtually unenforceable unless police officers catch people who ignore it.
Now we discover that some roads throughout the county and in the Thames Valley are going to be policed by both forces.
Of course police forces have to be accountable and cannot expect to be immune from savings demanded by the government’s public sector spending squeeze.
But in attempting to save a total of about £50m by April 2015 due to mammoth spending cuts, only time will tell if the wrong area has been targeted.