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Devon & Cornwall Police Federation

Reopening stations may not be the best use of resources when policing is underfunded

21 January 2022

Tough choices need to be made when policing is underfunded, and reopening stations may not be the best use of resources, Devon and Cornwall Police Federation has said.

Federation Chair Andy Berry was speaking after the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, Alison Hernandez, said she was trying to reopen the front offices of six stations, to give the public “reassurance”.

Andy said: “In a perfect world, I don’t disagree with Alison, but we’re not in a perfect world, we’re in a world where there isn’t enough money to go around and there still aren’t enough cops to do the work. In my view, the Chief Constable needs to prioritise his budget elsewhere.”

Many police stations’ front offices have closed over recent years due to budgetary reasons and a decreasing number of people reporting crimes in person. But Ms Hernandez told reporters at an Association of Police and Crime Commissioners' briefing: “We need to reopen and show that policing is open to the public.” She did, however, add that she had faced resistance because police chiefs felt it was a waste of resources.

Andy said: “We need to look at what’s the best value for money. Where do we really need to invest in policing in the 21st century? I would suggest there are a lot more effective ways to make the community safer.

“It’s a great aspiration, but budgets are really stretched, despite the extra funding announced by the Government. So there has to be a balance between what the public might want to see, and what’s effective. If the Chief Constable wanted to reopen stations, it’s going to cost money, which means they can’t spend money elsewhere.

“Do you reopen stations or do you invest money in enabling faster examination of electronic media, like mobile phones and computers? Because that currently takes months and delays investigations.

“Or do you have fewer people managing sex offenders? Or do you put additional pressure on the teams that investigate child abuse? Do you reduce the numbers of officers out there policing the roads?

“There’s stuff that really matters to people, such as the investigation of domestic abuse, improving our ability to investigate rape – all of these things are so important.

“There has to be a balance in all of this, and while some things are desirable, they can’t always be prioritised.”

Andy added that there were plenty of ways for the public to contact the police, including the telephone, online and by text. He said: “We’ve embraced new technology, even more so the younger generations.”