97% of Essex police officers concerned for public safety after cuts

Essex Police Federation concerned about cuts.

Essex Police Federation concerned about cuts. - Credit: Archant � 2008

A survey of Essex police officers has revealed 97% are concerned for public safety because of funding cuts.

The Essex Police Federation asked its 3,000 members what they thought about the cuts.

One-third of them responded to the survey, with 97% raising concerns.

In addition 95% of the respondents said they were unable to provide a decent response to the public.

The figures have been released by the federation as part of its Cuts Have Consequences campaign.

In total there will have been £72.5m cuts to the end of 2016 and about 600 officers gone, including 108 planned for next year.

The federation is hoping to put pressure on whoever forms the next government to halt further police cuts, though the campaign will be suspended during the formal election campaign to maintain neutrality.

Mark Smith, Essex Police Federation chairman, said: “We are not scaremongering, we are only telling the truth.

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“This is not front line officers moaning about pay or pensions, they have gone to try and do a good job but they can’t give the service they want to.

“Morale is incredibly low. There is a lot of work-related stress.

“Officers leaving puts extra pressure on those left behind, and it becomes a vicious circle which all impacts the public.

“We will never get the money back that has been cut.

“Whoever gets elected needs to stop, take a breath, and ask ‘Can we leave it like this?’. We say ‘No you can’t’.

“We know money has to be saved, we’ve never said we will not play our part, but the way they are doing it can’t carry on.”

Mr Smith added that the style of policing has already changed.

“We may become the East of England Police Service, merging with authorities, and if it means we don’t lose any more officers or support staff, or service, then so be it. We may lose our identity but it’s not about that,” he said.

“We are seeing times where there are no units free. I spoke to someone in the North Local Policing Area, which stretches from Chelmsford to Clacton who said one morning there were five calls to cover and all the resources were used – if another one had come in there would not have been resources to send.

“It is fire brigade policing, dealing with the incident and moving on. We don’t have the resources to patrol the high street.”

Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said: “I welcome the Federation campaign. I am proud to lead a force of police officers, PCSOs and staff who care greatly about the policing they provide.

“There would be something very wrong if people weren’t concerned about the potential impact of falling officer, PCSO and staff numbers.

“I have been open about the scale of the challenge we face. The budget cuts are unprecedented. The choices we need to make about where we spend money to best protect the public in a changing world will only get harder.

“As a force we are responding positively. I see this day to day in the commitment, bravery and professionalism of my staff.

“HM Inspectorate of Constabulary also recently assessed the force as being in a ‘good’ position to manage consequences of budgets reductions.

“It is right to have a frank dialogue with the people of Essex about the implication of falling budgets for policing the county. We must however ensure the discussion is balanced and recognises the opportunities new technology and new ways of working provide.”

Mr Kavanagh said a new computer system would go live at the end of March which would “transform” how information is used, while 2,500 mobile data devices would be issued from the autumn allowing front line officers and staff to update incidents and access information without having to go back to a police station.

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