Sussex police under the spotlight in major BBC investigation

imagesSussex Police requires a ‘root and branch’ review of the service it delivers to the people of the county.

That’s the view of a group of retired senior officers who say that funding cuts to Sussex Police have had a ‘devastating effect’ on its ability to fight crime.

Tonight BBC1’s Inside Out South East talks to former Sussex police officers who are seriously concerned about the state of policing across the county and about the difficulty local people face in getting a response from the police service. There are reports of people waiting for over an hour to get through to Sussex Police on its 111 telephone service.

In tonight’s programme – partly filmed when the retired officers held their fist meeting in Haywards Heath – viewers will hear the story of an elderly woman who called the police to report that she thought her home was being burgled. She was asked – by the police operator on the end of the phone – if she could go upstairs to see if the person she thought was in her home was still there, one former officer says in the programme that when he heard what had happened, “…it made me want to be sick.”

A petition launched earlier this month by retired officer Kevin Moore has already collected more than 265,100 signatures, Mr Moore says: “I’m a retired senior police officer who worked in the force for over 39 years. My father served in the organisation before me. Our combined service adds up to over 60 years.

“I care deeply about protecting our communities and the state of policing and it’s heartbreaking to see the cuts being made. In this country we’ve lost 25,000 police officers since 2010 and the effects are clear to see – with more than 91 per cent of crimes taking place without anyone getting charged.

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Retired senior officers from Sussex Police – including former commanders of Hastings – will feature in an edition of BBC TV’s Inside Out on BBC1 tonight at 7.30pm

“At the same time, cuts to other services like health care mean that colleagues in the force are dealing more than ever before with people who have mental health problems who should be in the care of the NHS. It feels now like policing is in crisis with hundreds of officers leaving well before retirement. Without urgent change, it will only get worse and put us all a risk.

“That’s why I’m calling for the Home Secretary to hold a Royal Commission. This is a ‘root and branch’ review of the entire police system, to identify concrete steps forward about what changes need to be made and how it will be properly funded.

“I’m not the only retired officer who thinks this needs to happen – I’m one of a group of 180 who are leading this campaign. We are called ‘Retired Officers Who Care’.”

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If a Royal Commission was to look at policing it would be the first since 1960. Mr Moore says: “Policing and the demands placed upon it have changed radically since that time – especially with the rise in technology. The British public have a right to a police force which has the funding it needs to keeps us all safe and secure.”

Tonight’s programme about the situation in Sussex comes at the same time as the Press Association reports that police across England and Wales close investigations without identifying a suspect in three quarters of reported vehicle thefts and four out of five residential burglaries and no suspect is identified in almost half of shoplifting cases.

Deputy chief constable Amanda Blakeman, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for acquisitive crime, said increased demand and fewer officer numbers have led to forces prioritising cases with a realistic prospect of prosecution.

She added: “Police investigate all cases of theft, burglary and shoplifting. Particularly for these types of offences, police focus on targeting prolific offenders, organised crime networks, and ensuring prevention measures by homeowners and businesses are in place.”

Inside Out, BBC 1 7.30pm Monday 8th October and also available after broadcast on BBC iPlayer.

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