Police deny Sidmouth ‘low morale’ claim

PUBLISHED: 09:39 02 November 2011

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POLICE have defended claims made by an officer that policing in Sidmouth has hit an ‘all-time low’.

Concerned by changing shift patterns and cuts to the constabulary, an officer has spoken to the Herald in the hope of forcing change by highlighting ‘problems’ publicly.

Devon and Cornwall Police said it acknowledged the force faced greater challenges following shift changes and cuts - but that officers must move with the times.

A Herald source said Sidmouth police station was often unmanned.

The officer, who wanted to remain anonymous, said response police teams based at Exmouth, Honiton and Axminster were frequently expected to deal with Sidmouth’s 999 calls on a ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ basis.

The officer said morale was low as a result of an ‘inflexible’ duty scheme because police were not being afforded flexibility to best help the public.

“Change needs to happen. To ignore the current climate isn’t an option. To do that, would be failing the public,” said the officer.

“The chief is doing the best he can in the circumstances, with dwindling funding and resources, to serve the public.

“Everybody, from the chief to the rest of us, wants to serve the public.

“Too many resources are dwindling and we’re having to use our imagination to make it work.”

The officer said police manpower at Exmouth or Honiton was reduced when response officers were drafted in to deal with Sidmouth’s emergency calls.

Shift patterns were inflexible, resulting in local beat bobbies being unable to attend community functions such as PACT or council meetings, said the officer.

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall police said the constabulary had scrapped its geographical boundaries in favour of response hubs.

He said that if Sidmouth police station was unmanned, a response vehicle would ‘probably’ be in the area.

The spokesman added response was matched to demand – which was statistically low in Sidmouth.

“People don’t like change, but they have got to move on.

“In these times of financial constraint we’ve got to move to a model that is for the public. The public get a better response now.

“Just because the response hub is based in Honiton, doesn’t mean they stay in Honiton for their shift -they will move into other areas.

“Anyone who dials 999 will get the nearest response. It could be a dog handler, it could be a traffic officer or a neighbourhood beat officer in the next street.”

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