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7 September 2017, 07:26
Dorset Police have revealed plans for a potential merger with Devon and Cornwall's force.
They're already in what's called a 'strategic alliance' for things like roads policing, dog units and some back office roles.
Dorset's Chief Constable tells Heart it shouldn't affect the number of bobbies on the beat.
Police and Crime Commissioners from both forces have informed the policing minister of their support for the Chief Constable's intentions to actively explore options and over the coming weeks consultation with key stakeholders such as locally elected MPs and councils will begin.
In a joint statement Chief Constables Shaun Sawyer, Devon & Cornwall, and Debbie Simpson, Dorset, said:
"The strategic alliance has made significant progress helping us provide a more effective and efficient policing service to the residents of our three counties.
"We now see this as a timely opportunity to progress this alliance further, including a potential aim to merge our resources and create a more resilient police force.
"Policing has faced some significant funding challenges in recent years and we do not see this landscape changing. To preserve local, neighbourhood policing and deliver safeguarding within our communities, as well as an ability to respond to emergencies and emerging threats as effectively as possible, we view closer working as the only way forward."
Shared leadership is already in place across both forces with two deputy chief constables that share portfolio areas and directors that lead support functions and business areas across both forces, as well as operational commanders and heads of department in some areas.
Operational police departments such as Operations, Roads Policing and Prevention as well as 17 other business areas are also operating across three counties with a further 11 departments currently going through changes which will see them aligned.
The forces also now share a number of support services such as Administration, Information Technology and Human Resources.
Both Chief Constables added:
"We have been able to make this progress so far because of our staff's hard work and conscious effort to work in collaboration.
"Our officers across Dorset, Devon and Cornwall have similar policing styles, values and priorities with cultures based on delivering resilient and sustainable services to our communities.
"We know working together has increased our resilience, streamlined our leadership and unlocked new capabilities in our support functions allowing us, where we can, to re-invest in our services. We feel that now is the right time to explore whether a full merger between the two forces is possible.
"We realise there may be statutory obstacles to overcome and there is a lot of work to be done to understand the benefits and challenges ahead. We will also ensure that the views and feelings of the public are taken account of. As a result, a decision is unlikely to be made quickly but we are absolutely committed to exploring the possibility of a merger in order to continue to provide a sustainable police service for all of our communities in the future."
Dorset's police and crime commissioner (PCC) said he welcomed proposals for a "closer working relationship" between the Dorset and Devon and Cornwall forces. Martyn Underhill said:
"I have made no secret about my concerns regarding police funding and the difficulties faced by forces during a time of ever-complex and increasing demand.
"However, that does not mean that we should stop working tirelessly to make the best use of taxpayers’ money.
"It is clear that there is a great deal more work required to understand the potential opportunities and challenges that this proposal might bring.
"Equally, we will need to seek the views of our communities and ensure that feedback is listened to and understood."