Tuesday 14 August 2018

Busy summer emphasises need for police merger

CC Shaun Sawyer

During the busy summer for policing in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly discussions have been continuing about the creation of a new force incorporating Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police.

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer said: “The summer months are always some of the most challenging Devon & Cornwall Police face and this year has been no exception. Tourists flock to this beautiful area which swells our population by millions, and we have seen a number of successful major events held in the area which require a large amount of resources, both in the planning and policing of.

“As ever, we have our own unique incidents in the area thanks to our mix of urban, rural and costal geography. We have also had a number of notable results in major cases, including the jailing of an armed gang of men in July who robbed approximately £1million worth of jewellery from a Truro jewellers in the largest armed robbery the force has ever seen.

“July was a particularly challenging month for the force with one of the busiest weekends on record. Not only did we have the standard day-to-day policing challenges across the region but the exceptionally hot weather, combined with the influx of tourists and the excitement of the World Cup provided additional challenges. August sees further big events in places like Newquay, like last weekend’s Boardmasters festival and the upcoming Cornwall Pride.

“We also have a responsibility to offer mutual aid to other forces across the South West and the UK when major incidents arise. Recently, we have supported our colleagues in Wiltshire following a Novichok related incident and our colleagues in Thames Valley and the capital during the visit of US President Donald Trump to the UK.

“Devon & Cornwall Police has responded to austerity and has provided significant reductions in its operating budget over recent years. Restraint on police resources continue to place a strain upon the force and rising demand only increases this pressure.”

Chief Constable Sawyer added: “Discussions have been ongoing this year to progress our relationship with Dorset Police and create a new police force. We absolutely believe the proposed merger is the right thing to do, not only for our communities but also for our workforce who are actively managing increasing demands on a daily basis. Truly unified and integrated resources will give the force much greater resilience and flexibility – as policing demands arise and change, resources can be redeployed into key areas as necessary. It also provides a greater opportunity to grow areas of the business which are important to our local population, including new frontline officers and staff to serve our communities.

“The proposed merger between Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police is not a done deal. Operationally this summer has proved some aspects of the operational case.

“Should the public support the proposals and the joint leadership team agree in moving this forward, we will present the Home Office with a full business case this October. For the overwhelming majority of staff and the public there will be limited immediate change from that which they see today. However, a new force would also provide resilience to future financial threats and allow us to be more effective and efficient in what we deliver, and to continue to support those most vulnerable in our communities.

“We really need public support to become better than we are able to be at present. We have a real opportunity to push the boundaries and develop a new cutting edge service by having to do things only once, combining our resources in all areas and investing in new capabilities to meet those growing threats from issues such as cybercrime. These can only be achieved through creating a new force and even a developed Alliance cannot deliver that. 

“We, as a force – whatever our size or name might be in the future – will continue to work hard to protect the vulnerable, to reduce crime, and to provide a high quality service to the public that we serve.”

Go to www.futurepolicing.co.uk for more information about the proposed merger and to complete survey. The survey is open until Monday 27 August.

For a printed copy of the survey contact your police and crime commissioner’s office.

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Martyn Underhill

Blog: Martyn Underhill

Protecting Local Policing 

I know that one of the key concerns for the public about the proposed merger between Dorset Police and Devon & Cornwall Police is about local policing.

I understand those concerns and I acknowledge that there is a job to do, to answer your questions and give you the reassurance you need; so you can make an informed decision when completing the Merger survey. After all, we are talking about creating a completely new police force, one that is effective, efficient and ready to face the complex challenges of everyday policing.

Protecting the public from harm is, and will always be, a core police duty. However, the demands placed on the police have shifted greatly in recent years and resources need to be effectively targeted on the basis of threat, risk and harm. Dorset Police have a set of priorities which are based on what you have told me concerns you and delivering on those priorities is incredibly important to me.

Policing has never been so complex, with an ever-changing landscape of crime and demand set against the reality of challenging resources and reduced budgets over recent years. We need to ensure that we are responsive to these changes and prioritise effectively that’s where the strategic alliance has strengthened our capabilities, it has enabled a more resilient, more practical and more capable to respond to the needs of our communities.

Currently, 25% of our staff are already operating within our strategic alliance, including some areas of specialist policing and that has a local impact on your community. Sharing services means cutting duplication, which means freeing up investment to go into other areas including local policing, enabling us to protect our communities and improve the service to the public.

We know that if the merger goes ahead, the savings that would be returned by rationalising leadership, aligning our processes and procedures will save an extra £3.2m annually, a sum which could be used to pay for 100 front-line police staff. But that is only the beginning, with a lot of hard work to be done in making further efficiencies, making precept harmonisation work and with financial support from the Home Office we could reach a maximum of 430 extra frontline staff.

Local policing is vital, local knowledge works, we know the value of having officers and staff work in one area – it quite simply helps us catch criminals and that will continue, local officers will continue to serve their respective communities. It makes the best economic and operational sense to have the nearest Officer or PCSO, the nearest police car or dog unit respond to an incident nearest them and that wont change. It is important to reassure you that that local resources are not going to be moved or removed , local officers, staff and resources are going remain just that – local.

Creating a more visible, effective and resilient policing service is the aim for all communities and I will work tirelessly to achieve that aim. I am committed to keeping your local policing service, just that – yours.


Thursday 12 July 2018

Alison Hernandez

Blog: Alison Hernandez

Why a three counties force should be used to fund hundreds of new police officers

In recent weeks Middlemoor has been ringing to the sound of marching as a fresh batch of new recruits prepare for their passing out parades.

Proud families will be invited to police headquarters to see their loved ones embark on exciting, yet demanding new careers. These days a modern police force needs people from all backgrounds, some have degrees, some are from an armed forces background and others I’ve talked to have swapped a seat in a call centre for a place on the front line.

There’s one thing all of them have in common – a dedication to public service and a desire to take on what can be a very challenging but rewarding vocation.

In the past year I’ve worked with the Chief Constable on a plan to increase police officer numbers to 3,015 across the two counties. Our training college is working overtime to deliver these extra officers but I want to go further – much further.

The demands on and public expectation of our policing family have increased significantly in recent years, and the effects central government austerity are being felt in police stations from Penzance to Ilfracombe.

Partly that’s because of new and emerging threats to our safety. According to the Office of National Statistics people are now 10 times more likely to be the victim of an internet fraud than they are a physical theft, and 35 times more likely to be scammed in this way than be the victim of a robbery. This means resources to fight and raise awareness of new crimes has to be found. Unfortunately these growing threats don’t mean rates of ‘traditional’ crimes have reduced.

This summer is bringing additional pressures. For example, a number of police officers from this part of the world have been called in to help with President Trump’s visit in a week where Devon & Cornwall’s population has swollen considerably by holidaymakers, meaning extra work for officers in coastal communities and traffic cops. This also means fewer rest days and annual leave taken to fulfil the national requests.

There are World Cup matches which the force has to prepare for (although thankfully the impact of this incredible tournament has been negligible so far) and the hot weather means our force control room is extremely busy.

Two such incidents of crimes that people feel their local police are neglecting caught my eye recently. Vandals tore out dozens of plants in Torquay’s Italian Gardens and a similar incident happened in a Sidmouth park. I hear about similar issues across the force area. A common gripe is that people hardly ever see a police officer or PCSO.

The force is right to prioritise the fight against serious and organised crime and violent crime, but we must also focus on good community policing. We’re rightly proud of having invented that model here in Devon and Cornwall, and it’s my job to ensure it is resourced properly.

That’s why I want Middlemoor to ring to the sound of more trainee officers’ boots and for these officers to be deployed in towns, villages and cities across our community in Devon and Cornwall. It’s in the creation of a new force for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly we will have the opportunity to do something special. To create a force that is fit for future policing, one that does not creak at the first sign of strain, one that is responsive, sustainable and connected to the communities it serves.

I don’t want a one-off Government grant to fund this for a year or so but a commitment from the Home Office that will allow us to put an extra 430 police officers on the streets.

Economies made through our strategic alliance with Dorset Police have already meant we’ll save £65m of public money through efficiencies over nine years to 2024.

But it’s the real cash opportunities through a full merger that will achieve what we’re all after – more feet on the street.

Everywhere I go people tell me they want more visible policing. Engagement work carried out by my office shows that 86% of those asked agree that policing needs more investment. A total of 71% of people in Devon and Cornwall said they were prepared to pay more to get more.

Firstly the merger would see just one police and crime commissioner and one chief constable where currently there are two. Streamlining these leadership processes will save an extra £3.2m annually, a sum which could be used to pay for 100 front-line police staff, but I’m concerned that’s not enough.

Secondly I want the harmonisation of the precept, which is £18 higher in Dorset than in Devon and Cornwall, to pay for 330 more front-line officers – that would make a total of 430 across the new force area.

There’s a recognition in the Home Office that we have to ‘Do more with more’ and to dramatically increase police officer numbers.

Now’s the chance to have your say again. If you haven’t completed the survey on the proposed merger at www.futurepolicing.co.uk yet then please do. If you want to talk it over with my office or me then please get in touch. It’s your force, your future and your opinion that matters.

Friday 29 June 2018

Have your say about the future of policing 

CC Shaun Sawyer, PCC Alison Hernandez, PCC Martyn Underhill, CC James Vaughan

The chief constables of Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police, in discussion with both police and crime commissioners, have been progressing with the proposal to merge the two forces since the announcement was made last September. 

Police and Crime Commissioners Alison Hernandez (Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly) and Martyn Underhill (Dorset) have launched a public survey to know what the public think of the plans for a merger of the two forces. 

There is an established strategic alliance programme between the forces which has seen significant efficiencies and increased collaboration since March 2015. Around 25% of staff are already operating within the strategic alliance, including some areas of specialist policing such as roads policing, firearms and dogs. 

A single leadership will reduce the number of chief officers and police and crime commissioners: One Police and Crime Plan, one vision, one mission. 

In a joint statement Chief Constables Shaun Sawyer (Devon and Cornwall) and James Vaughan (Dorset) said: “The merger is set in the context of an ever increasing local, national and international demand on policing which requires investment and new approaches. This, in addition to the increasing financial challenges which the PCCs are actively seeking to address, is amongst some of the arguments in favour of a merger. 

“We believe the proposed merger is also the right thing to do, not only for our communities but also in respect of the wider South West landscape and our workforce who are actively managing those increasing demands on a daily basis. 

“By working closer together, cutting duplication and making the most of our combined resources, a merger would help develop local and neighbourhood policing, protect our communities and improve the service we deliver to the public. 

“A merged force would provide a single vision that would continue to deliver future savings and build capabilities through merging which even a developed Alliance could not achieve. We would increase the amount of savings we can make, allowing us to be more innovative and transform the way we deliver our services.

“Truly unified and integrated resources will give the force more resilience and flexibility. Working together is the best way to meet the challenge of emerging threats and to operate more effectively, both now and in the future.

“Merging the two forces allows us to better maintain and develop our local policing service across the three counties through even greater devolvement and gives us a greater ability to re-invest in our services. We will also be in line with the Government’s direction of greater reform in policing.

“Both forces have similar policing styles, values and priorities with cultures based on delivering resilient and sustainable services to our communities. If we merge, we will develop a three-county policing model, each with its own county headquarters which will give better local visibility, connectivity and accountability in order to maintain a geographic approach to local matters.

“The metropolitan forces often dominate the policing landscape. A merger would create the fifth largest force in the country, giving us and you a stronger national voice.”

Martyn Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, said: “The chief constables’ decision to explore the possibility of merger between the two forces has far reaching implications for the people of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset and I would encourage everyone to get involved in the upcoming public engagement.

“My team and I will be speaking to the public over the summer, at events, meetings and when out and about, to find out what they think.

“I am optimistic about the prospects for the proposed merger. I can see the potential benefits, but I absolutely recognise that there are many decisions yet to be made, and many views yet to be sought. That’s why I would encourage people to come and meet us, find out more about the proposal and have their say by completing the survey.”

Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly said: “Combining the two forces would create a vast policing area, stretching from St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly to Bournemouth and including inner cities, coastal resorts and rural areas.

“While there are clearly advantages to such a merger the proposals would have widespread implications for policing and the way it is funded.

“That’s why my team is embarking on its biggest ever public engagement exercise. I would urge everyone in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to appraise themselves of the facts and to take a few minutes to have their say in this important issue by answering the questions in our survey. 

“I think it is vitally important that any merger has a clear public mandate.”

Go to www.futurepolicing.co.uk for more information about the proposed merger and to complete survey. The survey will run from Friday 29 June until Monday 27 August.

The results of the survey will form part of a business case that will be submitted to the Home Office in the autumn.

For a printed copy of the survey contact your police and crime commissioner’s office.


Wednesday 6 September 2017

A closer relationship between Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police

The Chief Constables of Devon and Cornwall and Dorset Police have announced plans today, Wednesday 6 September 2017, to explore further collaboration and closer working between the two forces.

There is an established strategic alliance programme between the forces which has seen significant efficiencies and better working in the last four years.

Whilst this announcement does not preclude any outcome, one avenue now being explored further is the possibility of a full merger between the two forces uniting Devon and Cornwall Police and Dorset Police into one police force.

Police and Crime Commissioners from both forces have informed the policing minister of their support for the Chief Constable’s intentions to actively explore options and over the coming weeks consultation with key stakeholders such as locally elected MPs and councils will begin.

In a joint statement Chief Constables Shaun Sawyer, (Devon and Cornwall), and Debbie Simpson, (Dorset), said:

“The strategic alliance has made significant progress helping us provide a more effective and efficient policing service to the residents of our three counties.

“We now see this as a timely opportunity to progress this alliance further, including a potential aim to merge our resources and create a more resilient police force.

“Policing has faced some significant funding challenges in recent years and we do not see this landscape changing. To preserve local, neighbourhood policing and deliver safeguarding within our communities, as well as an ability to respond to emergencies and emerging threats as effectively as possible, we view closer working as the only way forward.”

Shared leadership is already in place across both forces with two deputy chief constables that share portfolio areas and directors that lead support functions and business areas across both forces, as well as operational commanders and heads of department in some areas.

Operational police departments such as Operations, Roads Policing and Prevention as well as 17 other business areas are also operating across three counties with a further 11 departments currently going through changes which will see them aligned.

The forces also now share a number of support services such as administration, information technology and human resources.

Both Chief Constables added:

“We have been able to make this progress so far because of our staff’s hard work and conscious effort to work in collaboration.

“Our officers across Dorset, Devon and Cornwall have similar policing styles, values and priorities with cultures based on delivering resilient and sustainable services to our communities. 

“We know working together has increased our resilience, streamlined our leadership and unlocked new capabilities in our support functions allowing us, where we can, to re-invest in our services. We feel that now is the right time to explore whether a full merger between the two forces is possible.

“We realise there may be statutory obstacles to overcome and there is a lot of work to be done to understand the benefits and challenges ahead. We will also ensure that the views and feelings of the public are taken account of.  As a result, a decision is unlikely to be made quickly but we are absolutely committed to exploring the possibility of a merger in order to continue to provide a sustainable police service for all of our communities in the future.”

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Devon & Cornwall Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer

Devon & Cornwall Police

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Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez

Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

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Dorset Chief Constable James Vaughan

Dorset Police

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Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill

Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset