18 February 2020
The Chairman of Wiltshire Police Federation is bringing the force and the Police and Crime Commissioner to book over their plans to base police officers out of several libraries across the county.
Mark Andrews (pictured) says the plans to create these library “touchdown points” for officers and Police Community Support Officers – scheduled to launch on Monday 2 March - raise concerns over police officer wellbeing and “maintaining the security of officer’s work” in such a public space.
He also highlights how such buildings are not open 24 hours a day and that police officers being based in libraries is no replacement for no replacement for police officers being based in police stations in the community.
Mark said: “I understand there has been a need to make difficult decisions over recent years in order to balance the budget and ensure we can maintain a presence of police officers on our streets - but I often wonder if there could have been different ways of achieving these reductions?
“The closure of our police stations has led to a loss of identity, a reduction in visibility and made the job of policing our communities more difficult. I do appreciate our partners offering their locations as touchdown sites and recognise this does make us accessible to those using these venues.
“A few questions though, where is the privacy if someone wants to talk to us, how are we to effectively maintain the security of our work, were do we interview suspects or conduct searches, and how do we relax during rest periods to try to recover from the issues we come across?
“I would also highlight the fact we are a 24/7 organisation and these touchdown sites such as libraries have opening times.”
As part of the force/PCC “Estates Strategy” – and in a statement from the force – “Malmesbury, Wilton, Alderbury and Westbury police stations were identified as no longer meeting the operational requirements of the Force and as such will close. Instead officers and staff will begin using the respective local town libraries as touchdown points where they can engage with the public in their communities.”
Mark added: “I accept Wiltshire Police has invested heavily on technology to ensure we don’t have to return to the police station to do our work but in reality there needs to be a place where we can do this in comfort to ensure we do it well.
“We have lost so much in Wiltshire Police with our estates strategy these touchdown sites although welcome and appreciated are no replacement for police stations in the community.”