I know that one of the key concerns for the public about the proposed merger between Dorset Police and Devon & Cornwall Police is about local policing.

I understand those concerns and I acknowledge that there is a job to do, to answer your questions and give you the reassurance you need; so you can make an informed decision when completing the Merger survey. After all, we are talking about creating a completely new police force, one that is effective, efficient and ready to face the complex challenges of everyday policing.

Protecting the public from harm is, and will always be, a core police duty. However, the demands placed on the police have shifted greatly in recent years and resources need to be effectively targeted on the basis of threat, risk and harm. Dorset Police have a set of priorities which are based on what you have told me concerns you and delivering on those priorities is incredibly important to me.

Policing has never been so complex, with an ever-changing landscape of crime and demand set against the reality of challenging resources and reduced budgets over recent years. We need to ensure that we are responsive to these changes and prioritise effectively that’s where the strategic alliance has strengthened our capabilities, it has enabled a more resilient, more practical and more capable to respond to the needs of our communities.

Currently, 25% of our staff are already operating within our strategic alliance, including some areas of specialist policing and that has a local impact on your community. Sharing services means cutting duplication, which means freeing up investment to go into other areas including local policing, enabling us to protect our communities and improve the service to the public.

We know that if the merger goes ahead, the savings that would be returned by rationalising leadership, aligning our processes and procedures will save an extra £3.2m annually, a sum which could be used to pay for 100 front-line police staff. But that is only the beginning, with a lot of hard work to be done in making further efficiencies, making precept harmonisation work and with financial support from the Home Office we could reach a maximum of 430 extra frontline staff.

Local policing is vital, local knowledge works, we know the value of having officers and staff work in one area – it quite simply helps us catch criminals and that will continue, local officers will continue to serve their respective communities. It makes the best economic and operational sense to have the nearest Officer or PCSO, the nearest police car or dog unit respond to an incident nearest them and that wont change. It is important to reassure you that that local resources are not going to be moved or removed, local officers, staff and resources are going remain just that – local.  

Creating a more visible, effective and resilient policing service is the aim for all communities and I will work tirelessly to achieve that aim. I am committed to keeping your local policing service, just that – yours.

Martyn Underhill

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