Pressure is continuing to build from all sides over the effectiveness of Sussex Police with Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Hastings, Peter Chowney, the latest to voice concerns.
Speaking this weekend Mr Chowney said he wants greater priority given to funding officers for front line policing duties: “Front line police officers do not seem to be covered by reserves money, despite asking questions about it we have had no answers.”
Reserves money is cash that Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) can keep to one side from their allocated budget to help them manage financial risk and to fund major unexpected future costs as well as the implementation of programmes aimed at improving services to the public. In its 2017/18 annual report Sussex Police said it had £11m of reserves.
Mr Chowney says Sussex Police “…desperately need ‘bobbies on the beat’ to deal with street-drinking and anti-social behaviour.”
He is concerned that the additional officers currently being recruited WILL NOT fulfil front line duties, he fears that most will, “…fulfil Home Office priorities”.
These priorities he says include searching for older people who go missing from dementia care homes, “…this is an increasing problem and very labour intensive involving imaging cameras, and helicopters. East Sussex County Council funding cuts have meant that care homes can’t afford the necessary security,” Mr Chowney says.
Frontline officers are always an afterthought, he says while cybercrime, organised crime and drugs across county lines as well as child protection are Home Office priorities.
Just three weeks ago Sussex Police came under the spotlight in a BBC 1 documentary called Inside Out that spoke to a group of retired senior officers from Sussex police who are unhappy with the force’s current level of performance. The group, calling themselves Retired Officers Who Care (ROWC), say that Sussex Police requires a ‘root and branch’ review of the service it delivers to the people of the county because funding cuts have had a ‘devastating effect’ on its ability to fight crime.
The officers called for a Royal Commission in to policing and that call has been taken up by Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd who has put down an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons.
While EDMs are rarely ever debated on the floor of the House they do give MPs a chance to show support for certain issues, Mr Lloyds motion says: “This House celebrates the hard work and determination of police officers across the country to serve their community against the backdrop of financial cuts preventing their ability to do so as effectively as they could (and) notes that it has become difficult to establish precisely what resources the police need long term to act effectively.”
Mr Lloyd highlights that there has been no Royal Commission on policing for almost 60 years and calls on the government to set one up now to, “…establish precisely what is required by UK police forces to ensure they continue to deliver a service to the public that is fit for purpose for the next decade.”
Mr Lloyd also calls for an immediate boost to police budgets in England and Wales of at least £300 million.
Kevin Moore, one-time head of Sussex CID and the man spearheading ROWC describes the force’s current level of detection as the lowest detection rate on record, “The current detection rate is woeful,” he says, “it’s less than one in ten crimes that are detected,” he says.