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No crime investigation for neighbourhood officers at force

Leicestershire Police says restructure of roles and drop in number is vital to save money in light of cuts

Neighbourhood police officers in one force will no longer investigate crime from next week.

A restructure is underway at Leicestershire Police in order to save another £10 million from its budget, and part of the plan includes having neighbourhood officers only deal with “core community” activities.

Whereas officers based in similar roles previously would have carried out things like crime investigation, made planned arrests and attended incidents, these will be now only be done by other specialist units.

The neighbourhood teams will carry out patrols, deal with public protection and anti-social behaviour, and discharge “community engagement” functions.

The force says that the plan will enable 155 neighbourhood constables – a reduction on the number that previously served in this role – to spend more time dealing with neighbourhood policing issues.

PoliceOracle.com asked for a figure for the number of officers there were previously in similar roles, but was told that the realignment of responsibilities made this an inaccurate comparison.

The teams will work with an expanded team of 250 PCSOs.

Separate dedicated teams elsewhere will focus on resolving emergency incidents, conducting investigations and organising non-emergency appointments.

Chief Superintendent Rob Nixon told PoliceOracle.com that the change came about following research into what neighbourhood teams were tasked with doing.

He said: “What do the community expect their neighbourhood teams to be doing and what were they actually doing? There was a lot of custody processing, filing and other things which were taking them away from the issues in communities. They were taken away from what the community wanted them to focus on.”

Research from the force showed that crime investigation was the biggest single use of neighbourhood officers' time, accounting for more than a fifth of their activity. A new Investigation Management Unit will take on that aspect of work, and be formed of both uniformed and non-uniformed officers.

Chief Supt Nixon said that this will “break down traditional silos” which had existed in different units previously.

Reducing budgets

Chief Constable Simon Cole (pictured) said: “This transformation is the latest in a series of ongoing changes in response to reducing budgets and changing public expectation and demand.

“This new way of working will allow the teams based in our communities to dedicate their time to working closely with neighbourhoods and partners to resolve issues at a local level.

“Protecting our communities still remains at the heart of everything we do and I hope that this shift shows our commitment and dedication to seeing this continue and improve.”

Dr Tim Brain, an academic and former chief constable, told PoliceOracle.com that the neighbourhood roles did not seem like a particularly new idea to him.

“If you go back 20-30 years, community police officers didn't do a lot of mainstream work, they focused on building community relations. That changed with the neighbourhood policing initiatives which developed in the 1990s and 2000s as there was a massive growth in resources, which has now gone.

“I'm not being critical of Leicestershire, but on the face of it this seems like this is going back to the future.”

He added that knowing how many officers there were before and how many there are now was a key part of assessing the change.

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