The chairman of the Wiltshire Police Federation has criticised confirmed plans to base community police officers out of libraries in at least three of the county’s towns from March.
Mark Andrews says the plans to create these library ‘touchdown points’ for officers and community support officers – scheduled to launch on Monday 2 March 2020 – raise concerns over officer well-being and safety while working out of such a public space.
He also highlights how such buildings are not open 24 hours a day and that officers being based in libraries is 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 ‘Estates Strategy’, Malmesbury, Wilton, Alderbury and Westbury police stations were identified as no longer meeting the operational requirements, and were closed or are due to be closed.
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.”
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