Police accessibility is 'top priority' for West Mercia force
A top police chief says making officers as accessible as possible is an "absolute priority" for the force covering Shropshire.
Chief Superintendent Kevin Purcell, policing lead for Shropshire and Telford, said West Mercia Police is currently running a campaign to promote how local communities can get in contact with their local safer neighbourhood officer.
It comes as new figures show that police officer numbers in the force have declined by 16 per cent in the last seven years.
However, Chief Superintendent Purcell says it follows the national trend and emphasised that making sure police officers are accessible to the public is of great importance.
Chief Superintendent Purcell said: “Making our officers as accessible as possible is our absolute priority and we are currently running a campaign to promote how local communities can get in contact with their local safer neighbourhood officer, including making their mobile numbers available to the public and ensuring our mobile police station is out and about throughout the whole of the county giving local residents the opportunity to meet their local officers."
The scheme is part of a wider programme of work, to build relationships with local communities, including the roll out of mobile technology which has allowed each officer to spend an extra hour, on average per shift, out in the community.
Chief Superintendent Purcell said: “Part of my responsibility is to make sure we fully utilise progression within technology such as the ability for our officers to work in the community with upgraded mobile telephones new laptops and body worn video.
"While these are not complete solutions they do help to maintain our ability to do our role to a good standard.”
West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion says it is important for police officers to be visible so people feel reassured that they can get the help they need as and when they need it.
He said: "It is important we deliver this. Through schemes like this and the investment in technology, I am delivering on this promise and ensuring that the police can build their connection with communities and address the needs of victims of crime.
"I made a commitment to protecting frontline policing, and I welcome initiatives like this which make our communities be safer and feel safer.”
As West Mercia Police saw a decline in officer numbers between 2010 and September last year, there was a massive rise in the number of special constables.
The total hours clocked up by special constables in West Mercia last year was the equivalent of around 50 full-time police officers.
In 2017/18, West Mercia’s 360 special constables logged over 83,000 hours of service.
Other police volunteers also logged more than 11,000, giving a grand total of 94,422 hours.
Mr Campion said: “I am grateful to all our volunteers in West Mercia and it is right that we recognise the contribution they make to helping keep our communities safe.
“Communities can, and do, play an active part in helping us all to stay safe. Specials have been part of society for decades and play a vital role in supporting the work of our regular officers, along with other police service volunteers.
"Their roles have evolved significantly in recent years, enabling them to take on a much wider range of tasks and projects, supporting regular officers to achieve so much more."