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Has the tide turned against force collaborations?


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A raft of announcements confirming forces will take back their own specialist units has recently been made.

In 2015 the then Chancellor George Osborne praised the collaborative work being done between East Midlands forces

In 2015 the then Chancellor George Osborne praised the collaborative work being done between East Midlands forces


Forces pooling their resources was once seen as the answer to stretched budgets with announcements being made on a near-weekly basis that units were merging between forces.

Recent months have seen the opposite trend, with a raft of announcements that collaboration is being scaled back in different areas.

Nottinghamshire Police has been considering the extent of its integration with East Midlands neighbours and is shortly expected to announce the re-establishment of its own teams in areas which could include firearms, roads policing and dog units.

Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Avon and Somerset are taking back their own dog sections and roads policing units from a tri-force alliance.

West Mercia Police has quit the Central Motorway Policing Group, and Lancashire has quit the North West version.

Humberside Police has recently re-established its own dog unit after deciding to share it with South Yorkshire in 2015.

This week, South Yorkshire Police announced that its other announcement made at the time – moving its mounted unit into stables owned by West Yorkshire Police – is being abandoned because the collaboration it expected would take place did not materialise. A statement claims the latest change is beneficial as it will save travelling costs.

Forces still pool many resources in many areas, and Dorset along with Devon and Cornwall are examining whether to merge entirely.

But former officer and PCC candidate Mike Pannett told Police Oracle: “Collaborations were a good way of misleading the public into a claim that you could get more for less when in reality there were cuts for all forces involved and officers having to cover far greater distances.

“Slowly but surely chief constables seem to be realising that all you get with less is less.”

Police academic and former ACPO finance lead Tim Brain said: “There’s a natural level for collaboration otherwise it’s a bit like trying to push water up a hill, and I suspect merged dog units may have been a bit like pushing water up a hill. Resources are always drawn to busy urban centres.

“But why is it happening now when the politically accepted doctrine is for collaboration happen?

“I would guess that the much-maligned PCC system is actually moving this on because they’ve got a massive incentive to get the police service as good as it can be in their area, and that incentive is their re-election. I’m not sure they’re as swayed by national political considerations as much as some chief constables.”

Chief Supt Gavin Thomas, president of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales, said: "The 43-force model is constraining how the service addresses the types of challenges that make up much of today's demand on policing.

"These are crimes that do not respect force boundaries, like internet-enabled fraud, online child sexual exploitation, and international terrorism.

"Collaborations and alliances are piecemeal and inconsistent. 

"My members up and down the country are working longer and harder than ever attempting to make them work, but there is a concerning number of examples where the reality is proving to be a sub-optimal solution."

He added: "I have called for a debate involving policing, government and the public on what we want our police service to do in the 21st century, what it should not do, and how we structure and resource it. This conversation needs to start now."

View On Police Oracle

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