I’m sure that by now many of you will be well aware that Devon and Cornwall Police and Dorset Police are looking into the possibility of merging to become one force by 2020.
At the moment I am in listening mode - I am listening to the operational case, the financial case, what the public think and what our key stakeholders like MPs and councillors think before I make a decision.
We are now getting into the final stage of our engagement period and I would like to address some concerns that I have been hearing while I’ve been out on the road over the last couple of weeks.
I’ve been asked in detail about the implications a merger might have on the numbers of police officers and staff in the region, what the finances of a merged police force might look like and, vitally, what it would mean for community policing in villages, town and cities across Devon and Cornwall.
I accepted the outline business case for the proposed merger earlier this year because it felt right to explore some aspects further – we don’t know what future funding for policing will look like so we have to adapt and find ways deliver the best policing service possible to our communities. This may or may not be in merging our two forces.
But, let me be absolutely clear that no decision has yet been made.
I am working with Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer, and our equivalents in Dorset, to answer some key questions - does it financially make sense to merge, does it feel right to merge and will it better serve our communities if we merge? If we cannot answer yes to all these questions then I simply cannot support a merger.
I am aware of the time and effort that would go in to making a combined force work and this is a key consideration. I need to be sure that a merger will deliver more officers and a better service to our communities before I will support it.
Another thing I hear is that ‘it doesn’t matter what we think it’s going to happen anyway, the survey is meaningless’. I want to take this opportunity to reassure members of the public, police officers and staff, that your views are important - they really will help me make my decision.
The public survey launched at the end of June and continues until Monday, August 27. In this time my team and I have committed to 30 community events, shows and group talks. We are also conducting surveys with members of the public online via social media and over the phone. Results will go to the Home Office in the autumn as part of the full business case if we choose to proceed.
It’s really important to me that as many people as possible complete the survey so I can make an informed decision on behalf of our communities.
I’ve heard some obvious frustrations that there isn’t more information available - nothing is being hidden, that information simply isn’t available at the moment. No final business case has been prepared.
There is still time to complete the survey at www.futurepolicing.co.uk. If you are not online a paper copy can be sent to you with a return envelope, please ring the office on 01392 225555 to request one.