Concerns raised over Norfolk and Suffolk police emergency control room merger plans
13:26 03 March 2014
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Dozens of serving and former Suffolk police officers and staff have spoken out publicly against plans to move the county emergency control room to Norfolk.
They are among more than 2,000 people who have signed a petition against the relocation of the police control room in a money-saving move.
The online petition hosted by Unison has been inundated with signatures as well as comments over the weekend, including from more than 50 former and current employees in the force.
Thirty-three of those who left comments indicated that they work or used to work in the force’s control room, while an additional 25 said they were or had been employed by the force in some way – mostly as frontline officers.
Last week it revealed that senior members of Suffolk and Norfolk constabularies were proposing to relocate Suffolk’s force control room to one shared by both police forces in Wymondham.
This newspaper has launched a campaign against such a move, which would leave Suffolk without a single emergency service control room. Those serving both the ambulance and fire services have already moved to neighbouring counties.
The Unison petition’s webpage has received a torrent of impassioned pleas to keep the police control room in Suffolk.
One person who said he was formerly employed by Suffolk Constabulary said: “This domination of us by Norfolk has got to stop. It is important to retain our own control room where staff have great local knowledge and despite advances in technology this is a key factor to successful policing.”
Another said: “I moved to Suffolk to work for the Constabulary 22 years ago, from a county I knew like the back of my hand. It was a steep learning curve and I was totally reliant on the local knowledge of my colleagues.
“Local knowledge and experience are critical if we are to give the people of Suffolk the service they deserve.”
A woman who used to work in the control room said she was “appalled” by the proposal.
“If this goes ahead, it is an inevitability that one day a member of the public will die as a result of vital time lost when a call is logged or dispatched by a member of staff without the necessary local knowledge of a possibly remote location or, worse still, officers being dispatched to the wrong location,” she said. “This is a complete outrage.”
A current worker in the control room said the proposal would amount to “constructive dismissal (sic)”, due to the “prohibitive” cost of travel to work.
Another current worker said staff were “already working to capacity” and the public and officers would be put at risk if staff had to take on more work due to a reduction in numbers.
“One person can only handle a certain amount before things start getting missed through no fault of their own,” he said. “If it was your loved ones - you’d want them to be more protected from this and find others ways to save the money. After all, how can you put a price on people’s lives?”
Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, has said that he is sceptical about the proposed merger and that he will only agree to it if he believes it is in the best interests of the people of Suffolk.