Police chiefs are going to be challenged over ‘single crewing’ if they increase the number of officers sent to jobs alone as funding cuts bite.
The South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation, which is campaigning against Government-imposed budget cuts, said members fear single-crewing - sending officers to incidents alone - could become ‘more common’ as police officers numbers continue to drop, meaning there are fewer officers to respond to calls.
Around 600 police officer posts have been axed in South Yorkshire over the last eight years and by 2020 police chiefs estimate there will only be 2,000 officers in the county – 1,300 less than in 2007. There are 2,620 officers now with 30 due to retire before the end of March.
The cuts have been branded a ‘nightmare’ by the Police Federation, which has launched a ‘Cuts Have Consequences Campaign’ warning of less policing and an increase in crime.
Chairman Neil Bowles travelled to London earlier this week to lobby MPs.
He voiced his concerns to Sheffield MPs Clive Betts and Paul Blomfield.
South Yorkshire Police had its budget between March 2011 and March 2015 cut by £49 million and has to save millions more over the next few years.
Mr Bowles he said an increase in single crewing could be a consequence of the cuts.
“It will become more common if we allow it, but members and supervisors should challenge any pressures that may compromise officer safety,” he said.
“Single crewing has been the norm since the mid-2000s. Most of our members do not like it, and as an operational cop I did not either.
“I believe officers are more motivated when they work in pairs, more proactive work is done because there are two of you and any paperwork is shared.
“There is the perception of better safety in numbers. Numerous assaults against the police are committed one on one.
“Managers say that single officers can go to more jobs and that the public find an officer on their own more approachable.”
The policy for single and double crewing in South Yorkshire is that officers are allowed to work alone from 7am until dusk and should work in pairs at night.
But all incidents should be assessed by bosses at the Atlas Court call handling centre and the appropriate numbers assigned.
In November 2012 PC Glen Hill, who was working alone, was attacked in the Mail Coach pub in Rotherham town centre.
A canister of incapacitant spray he was carrying was used as a weapon to beat him about the head.