Godfrey Daniel was unsuccessful when he stood for election as Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Sussex, today he says he’s sad to see the county’s police service struggling to keep people safe.
Mr Daniel was speaking to Hastings In Focus in the wake of the revealing BBC1 documentary Inside Out broadcast last night that highlighted a number of shortcomings that exist within Sussex Police, shortcomings deemed so serious that a group of retired senior officers have come together as a campaign group to fight for improvements.
Inside Out focussed on the formation of ‘Retired Officers Who Care’ who plan to highlight issues they believe put the public at risk, these include slow response times, non-attendance by officers at crime scenes and what Kevin Moore, one-time head of Sussex CID describes as the force’s lowest detection rate on record.
“The current detection rate is woeful, it’s less than one in ten crimes that are detected, that’s the lowest it has ever been,” he says.
In the course of the programme reporter Glen Campbell tried to report an incident using the 101 non-emergency line and it took him 49 minutes, when he did eventually reach an operator he was told the police would not attend despite several cars parked near a railway station having been vandalised, broken in to and having the owner’s possessions stolen.
Assistant Chief Constable Nick May says: “The most important service we provide is the 999 emergency service and currently we are still performing well on that with an average wait time of eight seconds for a 999 emergency call that is our priority but we must improve 101 as well.”
PCC Katy Bourne says: “I remain disappointed and dissatisfied with the performance of the 101 service and I expect improvements arising out of the increased investment I have made available.”
Officer numbers in Sussex have fallen from around 3,200 in 2010 to around 2,500 today, a reduction of just over 20 per cent. It is also understood there are now just 70 traffic officers to cover the whole of the road network in Sussex.
Mr Moore says that he and the other 180 members of Retired Officers Who Care remain ‘passionate’ about policing in Sussex and are deeply concerned that local people, “…no longer have the confidence to call the police to report crime.”
Mr Moore says: “The group is not in any way politically motivated but was created this summer as a result of what its members fear to be an ambivalence by senior members of Sussex Police regarding the current situation.”
Our main focus is to challenge PCC for Sussex Police, and Giles York the Chief Constable, regarding the issues relating to a lack of police officers within the force. The drop in numbers of officers has led to a fall off in acceptable levels of service to the public in terms of response to calls for assistance and the investigating of criminal offences. We believe more should be done by the hierarchy of the force to lobby central government for additional funding as well as providing the public of Sussex with an honest assessment of the problems facing the organisation.”
- The group’s key objectives are:
- To raise matters of policing concern with the Chief Constable and the PCC of Sussex Police as appropriate.
- Where deemed to be appropriate to demonstrate public support for serving police officers of Sussex Police.
- To utilise the media and other relevant outlets in order to draw to the attention of the public, policing issues affecting them in order to gain their support.
- To challenge as appropriate the Chief Constable and PCC of Sussex Police on matters involving policing.
Ms Bourne regularly talks about her plans to recruit 800 new officers in the next four years, she says 600 of those are to replace officers due to leave the service and she says by 2022 there will be an additional 200 officers compared to numbers of serving officers today. Retired officers continue to be skeptical of Ms Bourne’s assertions and point out that even if there were to be an additional 200 officers by 2022 that still leaves a significant deficit when compared to 2010.
Mr Daniel is saddened by the whole affair: “I’m just very sad to see our once proud police service now struggling to keep us safe and respond to the needs of residents. But the people of Sussex voted for a Conservative PCC and are now living with the consequences: reduced policing of our communities.”
Speaking after the programme went out ACC May said: “The last few years have indeed been challenging for policing not just in Sussex but across the UK.
“It is true that public finance has been tough on local policing in the last ten years but since 2010 we have transformed and modernised Sussex Police significantly – while needing to save nearly £90m. This has been no mean feat and has resulted in difficult decisions being made resulting in fewer people than we had before.
“However, we are heartened that Sussex Police has been rated as ‘good’ by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and the county remains one of the safest in the country.
“Each day, I see examples of great public service from our officers and staff and I absolutely recognise how hard they are working and the strains on them.
“We do provide a good service. It is worth noting that the average waiting time for an emergency 999 call is eight seconds. The waiting time is just over nine minutes for non-emergency calls and can be longer at peak times. We are undertaking an enormous recruitment drive to help address this.
“We have 70 new officers in training and further significant intakes planned over the next six months; we are also in the process of recruiting and training PCSOs as well as investigators and call handers.
“We are planning to have 200 more police officers by 2020. We will be strengthening local policing in a way we couldn’t have planned to before.”
- If you haven’t watched the full Inside Out programme follow the link below to BBC iPlayer
- To sign a petition calling for a Royal Commission on the future of the police in the UK, a petition that has already collected more than 265,000 signatures follow this link