There is a difficult future ahead as Northamptonshire Police force battles with continuing financial pressures, according to the chair of the county federation.
His comments came a week after Home Secretary Theresa May accused the Police Federation of “crying wolf” as they claimed that neighbourhood police officers were becoming an “endangered species.”
Gez Jackson, chairman of the Northants Police Federation, said: “Although we haven’t lost constable numbers there are still urgent demands on our officers. We’re nowhere near as bleak as other forces but we’re a small force with limited resources and there are going to be limits to what we can do.”
Mr Jackson explained that there are an increasing number of vacancies on neighbourhood policing teams that are not being filled.
He said: “Uniform is the one pool that gets emptied but doesn’t seem to get replaced. Neighbourhood and response officers are constantly covering for each other.
“Up until now the cuts have been to police staff numbers, mainly office support roles. We believe officer numbers are okay until 2018 but after that it’s going to be really tight.”
Despite these concerns, Mr Jackson was optimistic about the positive way the force was responding to the challenges, particularly with regard to collaborative initiatives such as the East Midlands Special Operations Unit which has responsibility for serious crime investigations.
He said: “Combining resources has proved successful elsewhere, it is partly about cost saving but it is also a more effective way of working. Over the next 10 to 15 years we’re going to have to collaborate a lot more.”
Joint partnerships are not confined to other police forces, they are also happening with other service providers like the ambulance service and the NHS more widely.
In response to an increased demand for police to attend incidents involving people with serious mental health concerns, Northants began trialling a new initiative which has seen trained medical practitioners routinely patrolling in police vehicles.
Jackson said of the project: “It’s an example of trying to do things differently, at the end of the day it is about serving the public. This project has significantly reduced the impact on police resources and that has got to be a positive.”