If you look far enough into the future, any hypothetical question gains credibility. That is why you should never say never – and why Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale’s contention that a regional police force covering the whole of the south west is likely within 5-10 years cannot be discounted without due consideration.
However, the notion that Gloucestershire and our neighbouring forces stand completely alone is misleading.
We already have a Tri-Force agreement with Wiltshire and Avon and Somerset Police working together in areas like serious and organised crime, firearms, roads policing and dogs. The Chief Constable and I have also stated openly that we will continue to collaborate with neighbouring police forces and other organisations on certain projects where we are convinced that such partnerships will help us provide a better service to local communities. Indeed, the five police forces in the South West are to explore a regional approach to operational control systems and other ways in which people contact us.
But let’s be very clear that does not translate into one regional control room, it means what it says – a common approach that will deliver greater interoperability between forces when we respond to issues that may cross force borders or those that need more than one force to deal with them.
The aim is to improve efficiency and gain greater flexibility without losing local knowledge.
Gloucestershire already works with other forces and any other partner that can help us to provide the best service for the people of our county. The evidence is in my Police and Crime Plan where we have developed good links with local authorities and the private, public and voluntary sectors.
No-one should underestimate the effects of austerity but we have worked hard to bring stability to the Constabulary which is now in a good financial position. With more cuts on the way, we have introduced fundamental changes to the way we work both strategically and operationally.
I think Gloucestershire is best served by the chief constable focusing primarily on local issues in the county whilst being part of a fully interoperable and integrated police service and enjoying good relations with our neighbours.
We do not intend to be isolationist and will always be a good neighbour but I believe the people of Gloucestershire value their own police force and want to keep it