POLICING in the Uttoxeter area is ‘crumbling’ under the weight of staff cuts and poor management, an officer has claimed.
In a devastating critique of a system he has served for more than 25 years, the whistleblower said the ‘thin blue line’ was now so stretched that officers from Burton were being forced to cover Uttoxeter to compensate for a minimal or non-existent police presence.
Between zero and three officers were holding the fort in Uttoxeter, the officer told the Advertiser, revealing the station’s strength was previously as high as four or five constables and a sergeant.
The officer raised particular concerns about Monday nights, when two officers from East Staffordshire were diverted to Stoke-on-Trent to help police student night.
This left one or no officers in Uttoxeter, he said, claiming it was ‘highly unlikely’ the town would be policed after midnight and that there was an impact elsewhere in East Staffordshire ‘because somebody has to cover’.
But Staffordshire Police has hit back, pointing out that despite ‘challenging times’ borne of a need to save £34 million by March 2015, crime levels were the lowest in more than 10 years and victim satisfaction rates high.
The force responded after the whistleblower said he had broken cover because people in East Staffordshire ‘had a right to know’ about the damage he believed had been inflicted on their policing in the past eight months.
“We are sticking plasters over a system that’s crumbling,” he said.
“I’m concerned, and I know officers I work with are also concerned, about the service we are giving members of the public.
“We joined to put something back into society and I know we are all disappointed we are not able to do the job we joined to do — that’s prevent crime and police the streets and make them safer.
“We understand cuts have to be made but we’re finding services are suffering because of cuts to staff and the way we are being managed.
“We think we are just being run ragged.”
Andy Adams, joint branch chairman of Staffordshire Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said the whistleblower had highlighted a force-wide problem in which certain areas were ‘not being staffed to the same degree’.
“We anticipated this 18 months ago and it appears it’s now beginning to happen,” he said.
Chief Inspector Steve Maskrey, East Staffordshire Borough Local Policing Team commander, responded to his officer’s allegations.
He said: “These are challenging times and we have been working very hard over the last two years to restructure the force and transform services while protecting service delivery to our communities.
“Dealing with what matters to our communities and having the right staff in the right place at the right time is key.
“The public expect us to deliver value-for-money services and this means adopting a common sense approach.
“If we have demand on a particular night in one town and not another, for example student night in Burton is Thursday, whereas student night in Stoke-on-Trent is Monday, it makes sense to move some of our resources to cover this demand while ensuring sufficient resources are in place in the remaining areas.
“Many of our staff have experienced big change but have reacted brilliantly and crime levels are the lowest in over 10 years.
“Crime levels for the first five months of this financial year are down in Uttoxeter town by seven per cent, a total of 203 reported crimes compared to 219 last year.
“Across the East Staffordshire area 91 per cent of victims are satisfied with the service they receive.
“It is a tribute to all staff that at a time when budgets are reducing significantly and the organisation is shrinking, crime continues to fall and victims’ satisfaction rates remain very high.”