Monday, 18 April 2011

Cutting crime investigators

Devon and Cornwall Police have been getting some stick recently for their decision to cut 71 civilian crime investigators across the force area.

The crime investigators are employed to take witness statements and do all the case preparation work needed after an arrest to make sure that a case can be prosecuted. This work used to be done by uniformed police officers but, in a move to put more officers on visible patrol, the new team of civilians was created about two years ago.

If the crime investigators are made redundant then the work will once again have to be done by uniformed officers - meaning fewer police on our streets.

On Saturday, North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson and I met with one of the crime investigators who is threatened with redundancy. Whilst the Police have claimed that all options are open as they seek to save money, it is clear that this group of staff are being targeted for the chop. The Chief Constable says:
he had been "looking at every part of the business" including the "possibility" of having less crime investigators but "managing them in a different way"
but I have seen a document referring to the 'proposal' to cut all 71 posts.

It isn't just the GMB union and those threatened with redundancy who are up in arms. Many uniformed officers are also very concerned. One serving officer has said the following:
"I think this whole thing is a disgrace and demonstrates that our so called management and leadership, when choosing to dispense with civilian staff because it's easier, are nothing of the sort.

I've been saying this a lot to people today and I don't care. In my opinion, you're worth ten of some of my sworn staff colleagues. Everybody i've spoken to agrees with me. When we find out, after a difficult arrest, that it's you that is doing the interviewing and case file preparation, we breathe a sigh of relief. It's because we know that you'll put everything into it and do everything that needs to be done; and even if the end result isn't always the one we want, we know that it will be the best possible, because you've done it.

I just want you to know that the people that matter are behind you 100% and that if there was anything I could do to influence the outcome, I would. If the organisation does go down the route of redundancy for hard working, professional civilian staff like you, then Devon and Cornwall Police will be a poorer, shabbier organisation. Why do I feel ashamed...??"
Of course, there has been a 6% cut in crime across Devon and Cornwall over the past year and 30% drop over the last five years and the Police should rightly be applauded for this. But there are many people who worry which way these figures will go if some of the most efficient staff are lost. The overall detection rate in our patch of North Cornwall last year was 43% but the civilian crime investigators have detection rates of more than 70% each.

There is the very real argument to be made that these cuts are only coming about because of the cuts in funding from central Government. To some extent that is true. But it is also clear that there are opportunities to cut police budgets in a way that would have far less of an effect on their work. I understand that options to cut hours across the board have been rejected as have other union backed proposals. But at the same time, money from the capital budgets is still being spent on less than essential redecoration projects and the Chief Constable still has a uniformed officer as his driver.

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