Open letter from PCC Angus Macpherson and Chief Constable Kier Pritchard
Joint response in relation to current resourcing challenges facing Wiltshire Police.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon Angus Macpherson said: "First and foremost, our commitment to local policing has not changed - it remains the bedrock of the service we provide to all our communities.
"It is no secret that the policing service nationally is under tremendous strain and every Force has a duty to ensure the service it is providing is as effective and efficient.
"We must also ensure our workforce can meet the challenges of policing in the 21st century.
"The recent HMICFRS State of Policing Report and the Frontline Policing Review have highlighted the urgent need for police forces to reform and respond to the changing landscape, both now and in the future. I agree with these sentiments and we are working hard in Wiltshire to futureproof the service we provide.
"This is why I was grateful that I was able to increase the policing precept which will pay for much needed, additional support to our frontline teams.
"This isn't, however, a quick fix - the additional funds allowed us to recruit a double intake of new police officers who will start in October but it will be several months more before the public see them out and about in communities.
"I recently discussed the challenges we are facing in Wiltshire with the policing minister and I am further reassured that both candidates to be the next Prime Minister have indicated they will increase the funding made available to Forces.
"We have and continue to build a modern workforce with the right blend of people, skills and experience that has the capability to keep us safe as well as focus on prevention of crime. PCSOs and police staff are critical to compliment the role and skills that are central to policing in Wiltshire.
"The Chief Constable regularly advises me on the workforce mix and this also includes listening to the views of all staff associations and trade unions.
"Despite the challenges we face and being one of the most underfunded Forces in the country, we are still performing well and keeping our communities safe. This is testament to the hard work and dedication of our officers, staff and volunteers."
Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said: "It is imperative that the service we provide to the public is constantly reviewed against the threat, harm and risk in our communities.
"We want to ensure our Force is diverse in utilising the variety of skills and experiences officers, staff and volunteers can offer and that it is suitable to tackle the demands we are facing.
"These demands are not always obvious to the public - areas such as modern slavery, people suffering from mental health crisis or addiction problems, are seemingly hidden from plain sight but have grown considerably in recent years.
"Our workforce mix is something we will keep under review and, working with the Federation and Unison, ensure that we futureproof our service as best we can.
"However, one thing we can be clear about is that we do need more police officers and that is something we will be addressing through increased recruitment over the coming years. We have 40 new student officers joining us in October.
"We are grateful to the public for their continued support of our service and, thanks to the increased policing precept, we've been able to invest in other areas of our Force, such as establishing a cyber-crime unit, which has started to ease some of the pressure on our frontline teams.
"We've also been able to bolster the number of Community Coordinators who provide a vital link to our communities and partner agencies.
"Over recent months we have been keeping a close eye on staffing levels in our Community Policing Teams, specifically the number of fully-deployable police officers who are able to respond to 999 calls.
"It is clear that we are under increasing pressure to respond to new and emerging demands so it is important that our model can respond effectively to this demand.
"Despite all of these challenges, our workforce morale remains one of the highest in the country and we continue to invest in and develop the wellbeing support to everyone at Wiltshire Police.
"We are in regular dialogue with other local and regional forces to ensure we are sharing best practice when it comes to how we are delivering our local policing.
"Forces across the country are currently experiencing a significant increase in 999 emergency and 101 non-emergency calls for service.
"Wiltshire has experienced an increase in line with the national trend. Despite this we continue to answer 999 calls in under 5 seconds and respond to, and arrive at locations in under 12 minutes in all areas across Swindon and Wiltshire. Equally, in terms of the non-emergency call demand, we consistently arrive at locations in under 60 minutes.
"Whilst we have been able to demonstrate a consistently high level of service in the reactive element of policing, our key priority is to enhance our proactive and problem solving capacity across our communities.
"Public safety remains our number one priority, so we are taking a number of measures to ensure our frontline teams have the staffing levels they need.
"We would like to reassure the public that, despite the challenges we face, we will continue to be there when you need us and our police officers and staff remain committed to providing the best possible service."
It is important the public continue to report crime so that we can analyse all aspects of demand to help prioritise staff and officer deployment. You can now report certain aspects of crime through an online reporting portal via the Wiltshire Police website.