Drone squadron and 100 more officers on their way to help tackle crime, says Cleveland Police commissioner
A policing tzar has revealed 100 extra officers will be recruited this year – alongside an arsenal of new drones.
Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said new officers would be recruited this year with new drones lined up to come to the force in September.
The announcement comes after new Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to recruit 20,000 officers to forces across the nation last week.
Cleveland Police has lost 500 officers and 50 PCSOs since 2010.
Mr Coppinger said they were “gradually get some of them back” – adding the force was also looking at ways of saving officer time and using new technology.
The Labour commissioner said: “We have lost 500 and 50 PCSOs – that’s the reality.
“I’ve already written to the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the policing minister – as I have with previous ones.
“I will continue to fight our corner. I assume they are listening and have woken up because I think they now understand the political consequences.
“Their reputation has been damaged by the loss of 20,000 officers across the country.”
Mr Coppinger said the moves were all part of putting officers back into neighbourhood policing after staff were pulled off their beats to respond to “short term high demand” earlier this year.
He was speaking at a meeting of Thornaby Town Council this week.
A probe by the Chief Inspector of Constabulary in March revealed work practices were “about as inefficient as you can possibly imagine” at Cleveland Police – with officers “queuing up” to “take turns to key in” information to force laptops.
But Mr Coppinger told councillors the force had “invested in technology” with officers getting laptops and hand-held devices this year to allow them to work remotely.
“That’s a big saving for officer time so they’re not having to go backwards and forwards to the station,” he added.
When it came to drones, Mr Coppinger said new devices would be coming in September with officers trained up to use them.
He added: “We’ve seen them used in other parts of Cleveland like Eston Hills.
“They are eyes and ears which can be really effective – they can cover larger areas of ground and we use them in some rural crime activities and at major events.”
The commissioner said drones could “follow people home” and could prove handy in unsafe chases.
He added: “In some ways, it’s even more effective than motorcycles as there are scenarios where police won’t chase in built up areas as you’d be putting all sorts of people at risk.
“So we’ve got to be clever.”
The panel also heard a new online crime reporting tool would be launched in Cleveland this September.
Saving officer time
How long officers are spending at hospitals and crime scenes is also being examined.
Mr Coppinger added: “We’re looking at how much time officers are spending at hospitals on watch activities as that’s been a concern.
“There are sometimes issues where the ambulance service are calling for the police and they’re not arriving – and this is putting the police in a difficult situation.
“We’re talking to NEAS (North East Ambulance Service) about that.
“Sometimes officers can be tied up for a long time at crime scenes so we’re also looking at what can be done in a different way.
“All of this is about making better use of officer time.”
Despite backing for drones, there were some doubts about how much of a difference an extra 100 officers would make to policing in Cleveland.
Cllr Steve Walmsley, independent member for Mandale and Victoria, thought it was a case of “playing catch up”.
He added: “They’re talking about bringing in 20,000 officers to take us back to the 2010 situation – which is an absolute nonsense.
“I still think the courts want tightening up and people are being let off where they shouldn’t be – it shouldn’t be cost which keeps them out of jail.
“For a government to suggest losing 20,000 officers isn’t going to have an effect is nonsense – they’re telling you lies.
“You’re playing catch-up I’m afraid Barry – we could do with a leadership contest every few weeks with these promises so our problems are solved.”