Rumours that popular beat officer Andy Hocking would be taken off the streets as part of police reforms have been “quashed” by Falmouth’s police inspector.
Helston and Falmouth inspector Steve Lenney told Falmouth Town Councillors at a meeting on Monday night that neighbourhood beat managers would not be lost in expected changes to the force.
He said: “I would like to quash some rumours regarding PC Hocking,” he said. “We will not be losing neighbourhood beat managers.
“We’re busy writing a business case to look at operating... and trying a different style of policing.”
Inspector Lenney said the force was changing shift patterns, and any move he made now would be formalising the way his team had worked for the past 18 months. Instead of working with three separate shift patterns they would move to one shift pattern with five sections.
Councillor Candy Atherton asked about the number of officers expected to be on the beat this Autumn compared to five years ago, and whether Falmouth would keep its community beat team.
Inspector Lenney said: “We used to have 17 or 18, and now we’re down to ten. Will we have a dedicated neighbourhood team? No, because we’re delivering service differently.
“We can’t do it [neighbourhood policing] with those we have got, it’s setting us up to fail.
“A neighbourhood team would be at best for both towns around 15 people. If I go the opposite way we would have 50 people. Break 15 people down into three shifts, it’s not a great deal of coverage.”
Councillor Grenville Chappell said: “A neighbourhood police officer treats an incident with community concern.
“It won’t exist with a team of 50 people, 50 men can’t do the same as the dedicated and expert team we have now.”
However the inspector said he “couldn’t disagree more”
He said if you relied on one community officer, then when that person wasn’t there they wouldn’t be able to deliver the service.
A team of ten would have a geographic area of responsibility encompassing their current geographic area, and the skill set they possess is what the public want.
He said: “The only way to get back to neighbourhood skills, is to get back to neighbourhood responsibility.
“If I take Andy Hocking and give him a team of beginners I would clone Andy Hocking ten times.”
When asked about whether Falmouth police needed more money, he said it was more important to work on improving the service before adding more resources, and “once we work smarter we won’t have to work so much harder.”
Inspector Lenny was asked by councillor Patricia Minson how much he took public needs and wants into account when making his calculations.
She said: “They want faces they can recognise on the street.”
“The public always wants more bobbies on the beat,” said Insp Lenney.
“My allocation would be 30 bobbies for Falmouth and Helston, for 365 days a year. It’s too many beats and too many demands.
“If I had a dedicated community team, I’d have four people a shift for Falmouth and Helston, so I need to look at using other people from the police station.”