Police to seek extra funding to increase officer numbers
POLICE budget cuts have gone far enough and more money is being sought by the force to boost officer and staff numbers, the JEP has learned.
But the former Home Affairs Minister says she has ‘concerns’ about the States police – particularly in relation to budgets and morale.
The force’s budget has been cut by 5% (£1.2 million) since the start of 2017 and officer numbers are at their lowest point in ten years. Senator Kristina Moore, who was Home Affairs Minister up until the last election, said budgets could have been in a far worse position had she not successfully battled against a proposed 22% cut to the Home Affairs’ £50 million budget over the course of the last Medium Term Financial Plan. Budgets were cut by 10% instead.
A Jersey Police Association report released last year found that morale was low, with 64% of States police employees saying they would not recommend joining the force.
Senator Moore said: ‘There were some serious morale issues and I don’t think staffing difficulties are entirely related to budget issues. A considerable number of people are leaving or have left but there is always a certain amount of turnover in such organisations.’
Earlier this month, former Inspector Andy Bisson said he felt police budgets had been ‘over cut’ and acknowledged morale was low ‘but getting better’.
Asked if the force’s budget was going to drop again in 2020, Detective Superintendent Stewart Gull said: ‘We sincerely hope not. In fact, the States of Jersey Police have lodged a growth bid in recent weeks seeking new funding to increase the number of police officers and staff available to the force to focus more on safeguarding, community policing, vulnerability – with a particular emphasis on young people – and problem solving.’
A fresh recruitment drive is also expected later in the year and further additions are due to join the force throughout this year from a pool of already successful job applicants.
Mr Bisson said he felt a new police deployment model that involved officers patrolling on their own at times was one reason behind morale issues. He also raised concerns that civil servants and politicians were interpreting current low crime statistics as an opportunity to cut force budgets and reduce officers.
Det Supt Gull said: ‘Low crime does not mean that we need fewer officers. Of the 20,000 incidents police officers dealt with in 2018, around 3,000 ended up as recorded crimes. Those crimes that we are investigating are often more complex, including non-recent abuse and often include a digital or cyber dimension related to various investigations. Our Hi-Tech Crime Unit examined 1,200 devices in 2018.
‘The role of the police has changed significantly over recent years with increasing demands related to welfare, mental health, safeguarding and public protection.’