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8 June 2019
WILTSHIRE Police is paying more on officer wages as it climbs down from the seven-year Tri-Force partnership with Avon and Somerset and Gloucester.
Firearms, dog units and roads policing had all been part of the Tri-Force programme, with teams from across Avon and Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucester police supporting the larger region.
But after Avon and Somerset pulled out of the scheme and a bi-force could not be agreed upon, the project ended on April 19.
The group disbanded and has since seen the public purse increase its precept by £24 a year, part of which has paid for 14 new officers to fill the gap left by Tri-Force.
But the force says it believes cash will be saved in the long term, as more officers can support community policing teams within the county.
Naji Darwish, deputy chief executive of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC), said: “There has been a precept rise to pay for extra specialist officers, however what we are finding is they have more capacity to support community policing teams.
“For crimes such as County Lines and knife crime these firearms officers have conflict resolution training to go out and deal with individuals.
“In the Tri Force that additional capacity was swept up to cover areas outside of Wiltshire with the cross operating area. But now officers are back in force that additional resource can be used to support community policing teams directly.”
He confirmed that despite the rise in budget, the force expects costs to level out following the end of Tri-Force.
Now police dogs and roads policing officers are trained within the county.
Firearms officers still travel out of the county to Black Rock Training Centre in Portishead, a shooting range jointly owned by the three police forces.
Wiltshire Police is currently deciding whether to continue using the service or bring some training services in-house.
Officers must complete 120 hours a year of training, split between the classroom and the range.
Chris McMullin of Wiltshire Police added: “We are in a very safe county with very low firearms deployment, since April 19 there were 14 logs with firearms deployment, probably about two incidents per week. But in total they’ve been tasked to 300 logs, most in a non-armed capacity.
"We weren’t getting Tri-Force local attendance at briefing, which we are now doing. We are seeing a more engaging armed response.
"The transition has gone without an issue and been very good for us.”
An emergency arrangement put in place to offer support has been called upon just 15 times by Wiltshire Police in the six weeks since the Tri Force disbanded.