Norfolk’s chief constable reveals his ‘biggest regret’ after signing contract extension
PUBLISHED: 08:30 19 June 2017
Copyright Archant Norfolk 2016
Over the past seven years the number of police officers and police community support officers has fallen to the extent that there are “300 fewer uniforms” on the streets.
The fall in officer numbers, which comes despite increases in reports of historical sexual abuse, the emergence of cyber crime and the continuing threat of terrorism, has been described by Simon Bailey as his “biggest regret”.
Budget cuts have meant officer numbers have fallen from a peak of 1650 police officers and 260 police community support officers (PCSOs) in 2008/09 to the current figure of 1460 officers and 146 PCSOs.
Mr Bailey, who was appointed as Norfolk’s chief constable in 2013 and has just signed a contract extension, said: “My biggest regret is seeing the reduction in the number of officers working in neighbourhoods and in the numbers of police community support officers.
“It has been incredibly hard - numbers dwindle to plug the funding gap.”
Mr Bailey said neighbourhood policing was at centre of the service the constabulary provides and hoped that, one day, at least there might be a rise in officer numbers again to meet public demand.
He said: “The police and crime commissioner consultation for the police and crime plan has clearly shown how much our communities value the visible presence.
“I can’t meet everyone’s expectations but I would like to think there will be more officers on the street during the remainder of my tenure.”
Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner Lorne Green has extended Mr Bailey’s contract by two years which will see him stay as the county’s top police officer until the autumn of 2020.
Mr Bailey, who has just entered his 32nd year of service to Norfolk police, said he was delighted to be given the chance to continue the work he had started.
He said: “I have always made a commitment to Norfolk and still have as much enthusiasm and passion for the job as I did when I became chief constable in 2013.
“We’re probably facing our greatest policing challenge at this moment in time and I still feel I’ve got a lot to offer and wanted to give the organisation some continuity.
“I’ve seen us through a period of austerity, seen us through a period where the face of crime has changed beyond all recognition and, of course, because of the horrors of the past 12 weeks the spectre of having to deal with the terrorist threat as well.
“The threat of terrorism is a great concern for every chief constable and from my point of view the best way of tackling it is to invest in our neighbourhoods whereby you build a relationship which allows people to provide you with that vital intelligence.
Mr Bailey said one of the biggest challenges he had faced as chief constable was budget constraints forced by government cuts which had seen the force save £30m over the past seven years.
He said: “That’s seen a significant reduction in the number of officers and staff. We’ve got 300 fewer uniforms than when we were at our peak.
“We’ve seen demand growing as we try to fill the gaps that have been left by other public sector organisations. That’s added a really significant demand upon our resources and the profile of crime we’re now having to deal with has changed as well.”
Traditional type of crimes like burglary and theft have been replaced by challenges posed by things like cyber crime and increases in abuse.
Mr Bailey said despite the challenges posed the force has coped well thanks largely to an “incredibly dedicated workforce”.
He added: “We’re recognised as one of the four top performing forces in the country and it’s something I’m massively proud of, I really am.”
Mr Bailey said he was most proud of the work the force was doing with young people in the county.
He said: We’re investing considerably in our cadet force. By the end of this year we will have in the region of 125 cadets. We’ve got police officers in every secondary school and I’ve been to see the difference we, as an organisation, are making to young people in Norfolk.
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