A POLICE force is set to ‘downsize’ even further as officers and staff positions are axed to hit new financial targets.
Representatives of those working at Cleveland Police say the latest stinging cuts will put the public in ‘serious danger’.
Yesterday people were asked to consider leaving the service in a desperate bid by the force to save more money due to Government grants being slashed further.
Police chiefs hope to cut the number of serving officers from 1,391 to 1,333 – a reduction of 58 on top of the 300 who have already been lost since 2010 – and cut the force’s 151 staff positions by a third, with a loss of 50 posts.
There will also be fewer police community safety officers, with a reduction from 166 to 132.
A voluntary redundancy and retirement scheme was announced yesterday, but compulsory redundancies will be made if not enough people come forward.
Paul Brown, chairman of the Federation, said: “Cops just want to serve the public and protect them from danger. What is happening is not sustainable and will put people in serious danger.”
He added that he expects crime and anti-social behaviour to increase further and described moral as “appalling” with rising stress and sickness levels.
Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer said: “I do not underestimate the impact our plans will have on individuals, but given the scale of the savings we have to make, regrettably, we have no other option but to downsize.”
Mrs Cheer added that she believes the new-look force will be more restricted as to how fast they can respond to lower-level incidents, saying: “If it’s just something happening down your street, we may have to see you tomorrow rather than today. But we will always be there for the big stuff”.
Cleveland Police had to find savings of £15.1m after the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010, but have now been told they must find an additional £4.8m of cash savings by March 2015.
The force also estimates there will be further cutbacks of £3.5m by 2017.
Peter Chapman, regional organiser for Unison, which represents police staff and PCSOs, said: “Our message is clear: Forces across the country are being cut to such an extent that they can’t do their job.
“It’s a worry for our members, it’s a worry for the community, and it should be a worry for the Government.”
The force is also looking at ways to save money with its buildings, supplier costs and vehicles, while Regulation A19 will also carry on being used to release police officers who have served for 30 years.
But chiefs are hopeful that they will be able to finally start recruiting new officers to bring in “fresh blood and new ideas” after a four-year freeze by advertising posts freed up due to issues such as illness and emigration.
Barry Coppinger, the force’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said the force’s leaders are trying to manage the situation as well as they can but that the Government “can not be allowed to continue” with further cutbacks.