Sussex budget cuts 'hit frontline policing'
Police in Sussex say budget cuts have led to increased workloads, a poorer response to emergency calls and less neighbourhood policing.
Hundreds of members of Sussex Police Federation are to challenge Chief Constable Martin Richards on the cuts at a meeting in Brighton later.
“The mood is one of concern – officers have been pushed from pillar to post,” said chairman Paul Sellings.
Mr Richards said new ways of working had reduced the impact of cuts.
Sussex Police has lost 300 officers over the last three years as a result of £52m cuts imposed by the government by 2015.
The police federation says the cuts mean that patrols must prioritise which 999 calls they go to.
It says figures show response times have dropped to 72% within 15 minutes from 90% three years ago.
“The cuts are impacting on frontline policing and emergency response times,” said Mr Sellings.
He said neighbourhood policing had to be “abandoned” over the summer because of the demands of policing the anti-fracking demonstrations at Balcombe.
“It is quite ironic that it took 300 Sussex officers to police Balcombe, which is the same amount that we've lost since 2010,” he said.
The chief constable said the drop in 999 response times had come as a shock.
“That's an alarming statistic which we have done a lot to address,” Mr Richards said.
“We have done that by operating our police cars with just one police officer in the car rather than two when it is safe to do so.”
He said neighbourhood policing was significantly reduced during the Balcombe protests in August, but the impact was lessened by using staff who would have been on days off or who were being paid overtime.
At least 12 other police forces also sent officers.
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne said there had been an issue with emergency response times, which was now being addressed.
“Recently we opened recruitment in Sussex for the first time in three-and-a-half years, so we have recruited an extra 80 police officers,” she said.
“These are proper police officers, not PCSOs.”
Mr Richards is meeting the police federation members at the Metropole Hotel in Brighton.
Hampshire police volunteer horse patrols scheme slammed
A police initiative to use horse-riding volunteers to patrol rural areas of Hampshire has been criticised by the police union.
The Hampshire Horsewatch scheme will see 12 civilian horse riders in branded uniforms looking out for suspicious activity and reporting to the police.
Hampshire Constabulary said it would help in times of financial pressures.
But Hampshire Police Federation criticised it as a “blurring of the line” between police and the public.
Chairman John Apter said: “We've reached a sad point when we are relying on volunteers in a police-style uniform on horses to have mounted patrols.”
Essex Police chief blasts hangover sickies
Essex's police chief has warned his officers that taking the day off sick with a hangover is not acceptable and is “letting their community down”.
Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh told a force magazine that some officers were “abusing the sickness management process” and “will be dealt with”.
He said his officers were averaging 12 days sick a year, five more than nurses at Chelmsford's Broomfield Hospital.
Mr Kavanagh said he was looking at how to “stop people abusing the system”.
In an interview with the Essex Police Federation Mr Kavanagh said: “For those who are genuinely unwell, we are looking at how we support them through occupational health and, if necessary, investing in occupational health to get them back.
“But I think if you look at the overall numbers compared to other forces, there is also a group – a small group but a group nonetheless – that are abusing the sickness management process.
“If they can't get the time off, they take it sick. If they have a heavy night, on occasions they are taking days off. They will be challenged and if necessary they will be dealt with.”
Essex Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston said he welcomed Mr Kavanagh's stand.
Speaking to BBC Look East he said he recognised that officers were doing “dangerous physical work and sometimes they will be injured” but added “if of course there are a few officers swinging the lead let's find them out and deal with them”.