South West forces working together to strengthen policing
In 2014 four police forces - Wiltshire, Avon and Somerset, Devon & Cornwall, and Dorset - brought together their scientific services to form the South West Forensics collaboration.
Since then, using the opportunities created by combining these resources, the forces have overseen improvements in crime scene investigation, digital forensics and identification services, delivered through a model which sees staff remain locally based.
In the latest move to further strengthen the effectiveness of this collaboration, Avon and Somerset and Devon & Cornwall will transfer the employment of their forensics staff to Dorset Police.
Although staff will remain locally based, continuing to support policing in local communities across Avon and Somerset and Devon & Cornwall, the move to a single employer will provide consistent working practices and simplify the collaboration's operating model.
Chief Officer for the South West Forensics collaboration, Assistant Chief Constable Damian Kearney, said: "This welcome move, which reinforces the collective investment in collaboration by the forces involved, will see over 300 forensic staff employed by Dorset Police on behalf of the region, reducing bureaucracy and streamlining working practices. The transfer of employment will take place by October 2019."
Dorset's Chief Constable, James Vaughan, is the national police lead on forensics, providing additional support and grounds for Dorset to host the regional forensic collaboration.
Although Wiltshire Police has decided against transferring the employment of its staff to Dorset Police, the force will remain a full member of the South West Forensics collaboration and working practices will be aligned as part of the new arrangements.
Angus Macpherson, Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, said: "We decided to bring this service together to serve the people of the south west in the most effective way.
"In having a joined-up approach we can maximise the impact of our expenditure rather than duplicate investment on things like very expensive scientific hi tech laboratory kit - 'do it once' is our motto."
Mr Macpherson reaffirmed that Wiltshire is keen to support South West Forensics and will work towards the harmonisation of staff terms and conditions.
Avon and Somerset PCC Sue Mountstevens said: "The team is one of the most established collaborative services in the South West. It is more important than ever to work together to catch criminals and the 300 plus forensics staff effectively deliver one of the most comprehensive forensics services in the country.
"This joined-up approach ensures the South West Forensics collaboration can deliver its complex and sophisticated skills to achieve, through the production of excellent scientific evidence, successful prosecutions of criminals."
Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill said: "Today we are pleased to announce we now are able to manage this large workforce through one constabulary - Dorset.
"The single host force concept is not new, but moving over 300 staff into Dorset, who have been working together but still having slightly different approaches means that we can positively tackle the improvements we want to make to the service."
Devon & Cornwall PCC Alison Hernandez said: "The move to one employer has been driven by management as the best option to deliver an efficient forensic service and staff welfare is at the heart of the decision.
"I believe that Dorset is best placed to deliver an excellent forensics service as Chief Constable James Vaughan has been involved at a national level from the very beginning and I am sure he can give effective leadership to the team."