The Loneliness of the Rural Police Officer
I saw a tweet recently from Mr Christopher Salmon, the PCC for Dyfed Powys Police.
It said “A single officer answers a call in remote mid-Wales, an hour from help. Officers in towns are minutes from backup. That’s the #DPRural test.”
An odd Tweet I thought so I responded with two of my own;
“Is that because of cutbacks or because your officers are more macho?”
“What exactly is the #DPRural test please?”
This elicited the following answer;
“it’s because #DyfedPowys is a big place.”
A very strange answer I thought, it didn’t really answer my question although maybe Mr Salmon thought he was answering me, but it got me thinking.
Dyfed Powys IS a big place. It covers 4,237 Square Miles. To Police it they employed 1,195 Police Officers in 2010, by March 2013 this had reduced to 1,112 with a target workforce for 2015 of 1,124. So according to the official Home Office Stats they have already shed more posts than they needed to. You are welcome to challenge me on this any time Mr Salmon as these are Home Office and HMIC stats, not mine. Or maybe they’ve been fudged?
4,000+ square miles that contain 514,938 people. Now I make that ONE Police Officer per 463 people, or 2.2 Police Officers per 1,000 population, which is very much at odds with the HMIC figure of 3.73 per 1,000 head of population. However if you add on ALL of the Police Staff and the PCSOs and Specials, then you get MUCH closer to the HMIC figure of 3.73, but that’s not really the right picture is it? Whilst the civilian support staff do an absolutely fantastic job whilst faced with their own peculiar challenges, I remain to be convinced that it’s fair (or indeed good practice) to include their numbers in the Police to Population ratio.
It gets worse. The figures above are for ALL ranks within Dyfed Powys Police. In March 2013 the Home Office stats showed that there were 823 Constables and 201 Sergeants. So, IN REALITY, there are only 1,024 Full Time sworn Police Officers (not counting snr officers) to deal with 514,938 people , or one officer per 502 people, or 2 officer per thousand, not nearly 4 as they would have you believe. Add to this that NONE of the officially published statistics show the divide between Uniform and Detectives, there’s nowhere near as many Police Officers out there as they figures would have you believe, and that’s without taking Annual Leave and Sickness into the equation.
Does this indicate that the public are getting a good service? In fairness it is quite close to the National Average for England and Wales, but in a large rural community is it appropriate?
What about Officer Safety Mr Salmon? Officers are no use to anyone if they are alone, single-man crewed and presented with a situation which requires that they receive assistance. Saturday nights for example. Pub fights, and drunken domestic disturbances. Is Dyfed Powys so well blessed that your officers don’t encounter these problems? Instead of Tweeting about the #DPRural Test maybe you should DO SOMETHING about it.
I know that you’re a Conservative PCC and that you will toe the Party Line and do whatever Mrs May tells you to. But you have a responsibility for the safety of your Community AND of your officers. Apart from the fact (as far as I’m concerned it’s fact) that two officers working together produce more work than two officers working singly, they each have an element of protection from each other. As you rightly point out in your strangely worded Tweet Dyfed Powys is a big place and instead of seemingly boasting that your officers can be an hour from help if they need it, maybe you should take into account their safety. I wouldn’t like to see you squandering your diminishing resources defending a legal action because you hadn’t provided a sufficient level of protection for your remote, rural officers. Maybe you have, maybe you’d like to tell me about it, or maybe I should just ask for your Risk Assessment under the Freedom of Information Act..Last Updated on