Last week veteran Hastings councillor and one-time candidate for the job of Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Godfrey Daniel said he was ‘sad’ to see the county’s police service struggling to keep people safe.
He was speaking the wake of the BBC TV Inside Out programme’s report on the state of Sussex police and how a group of retired senior officers, calling themselves Retired Officers Who Care (ROWC) are planning 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.
Well this week Sussex Police published a photograph showing the new Police Constables and Police Community Support Officers (PCSO) the force has just recruited and boasted i “…it’s our largest intake in ten years”.
Seventy police officers have been recruited to local teams across Sussex as a result of this year’s rise in council tax – households in Hastings are paying an additional £12 on their council tax to fund the Police. A statement from Sussex Police says the new recruits will be working within their communities before Christmas and the 34 PCSOs will be visible on the streets of Sussex in the next two weeks.
Overall Sussex Police will see 150 new officers and staff by the end of October, with more staff investigators and contact handlers joining the force too.
Chief Constable Giles York said: “I warmly welcome the new recruits, bringing new skills and different life experiences to the job, and I wish them every success.
“This new intake of police officers is part of our drive to recruit 800 police officers in the next four years that will lead to an overall increase of 200 officers by 2022.”
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.
Writing to every household in the county earlier this year PCC Katy Bourne said: “This year’s police grant will be the same as last year and the Government is clear that local communities are expected to meet an increasing proportion of policing costs. This is why they have allowed PCCs to increase the police precept.”
She also explained that since 2009, Sussex has already made £88m of reductions and efficiencies. The force’s financial planning showed that it faced making a further £26.5m savings in the current financial year and that would have put the jobs of 476 officers and police staff at risk, Ms Bourne said: “To help ease the reductions, I had already released £17m of reserves last year and combined with the £12 increase in the precept on the average band D dwelling, we can now protect those 476 posts and look again at the resources available for policing.”
Mr Moore and the other members of ROWC say more recruitment is needed, they are concerned about what they see as the: “…ambivalence by senior members of Sussex Police regarding the current situation.”
Mr Moore says: “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.”
This week Ms Bourne was confirmed as the Conservative party’s choice to run for the post of Police and Crime Commissioner again when elections take place in 2020.