TRAFFIC cops could be cut further as police fight pressure to slash millions from their budget, Hampshire’s chief constable has exclusively told The News.
Olivia Pinkney has vowed to maintain neighbourhood policing in the coming year but said specialist departments are being looked at in the wake of a £10m shortfall.
In an interview responding to The News’ survey revealing Portsmouth residents’ concerns about police levels, Mrs Pinkney said difficult choices had to be made.
Two of those include whether or not roads policing unit vacancies will be filled and whether the central force support unit – comprising public order-trained officers – will be relocated within neighbourhood units.
The chief constable was speaking ahead of government announcing police funding settlements next week.
Mrs Pinkney said: ‘The bit that we’re not looking at is local policing, response and neighbourhood, nor are we looking at investigations where we’re just got where we need to be.
‘It’s about roads policing, and that specialist skill set with the force support unit.’
PCSO numbers were not fixed ‘hard and fast’, Mrs Pinkney said but said the ‘scale of neighbourhood policing’ is not set to alter in the coming year.
Mrs Pinkney said following cuts the force was in as good a position as it could be, with ‘incredibly difficult’ choices to make, including being able to ‘pool our expertise’.
No decision has been made as the force awaits the funding details, and any changes to the police share of council tax being looked at by crime commissioner Michael Lane.
If it is increased by 1.99 per cent the £10m shortfall in 2018/19 could be reduced by £1.2m, police said.
In the last 10 years traffic police numbers in Hampshire have been slashed by a third, from 149 to 104.
But concerns have been raised that criminals will be able to get away with crime on the roads under further cuts.
John Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman, said the proposals were a ‘devastating blow’.
He said: ‘Sadly roads policing is often seen as a nice-to-have rather than an essential and to cut even further means that the chance of being caught committing crime on the roads will be reduced. This is not a good thing for the travelling public.’
He added the ‘travelling public’ are a ‘neighbourhood and deserve to be policed as much as anybody else’.
But he added the chief constable was in an ‘impossible position’ over funding.
The force – recognised to be underfunded by £47.7m – has admitted it is looking at the ‘least worst option’.
Mrs Pinkney said she did ‘worry’ about overall numbers of police in the force, but said they would always respond and deal with crime.
She said: ‘Our people are, to a man and woman, pointed towards – and I catch them every day doing excellent things – keeping people safe, investigating, responding.
‘They’re absolutely fantastic in Portsmouth, it’s very, very tangible.’