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Cumbria police ‘fill in’ for other services, says new chief constable

Cumbria's new chief constable says less than 20 per cent of calls to police are about crime, describing the force as the “organisation of last resort”.

Jerry Graham photo
Jerry Graham

Jerry Graham, who starts the top job in county policing today, said officers had found themselves filling the gaps after other public services had taken cuts in financially-tough times.

He stressed officers would always help those in distress or need – but raised the example of police being put in charge of a particular problem when it may be rooted in mental illness.

Mr Graham said: “Is the right place for someone who has, say, some mental illness, a police cell?”

He added he would be making sure police worked “together effectively” with other agencies and would speak to the heads of other public bodies in his new role.

The 50-year-old has been promoted into the post following five years with the force, first of all as assistant chief constable and then deputy chief. He succeeds Bernard Lawson.

Mr Graham spoke of his pride at achieving the top role, adding he intended to be out-and-about talking to staff from day one.

Meetings with the chief executives of other public bodies and local authorities are also high on the agenda, as is a drive to make sure the force delivers value for money while keeping integrity at the heart of what it does.

Mr Graham said only 17 per cent was about crime, while another 18 per cent was in relation to antisocial behaviour.

“We deal with a whole range of issues that wouldn’t normally be seen as a pure policing matter,” he added.

“We are the organisation of last resort. When there is nowhere else to go, people ring the police.

“The instinct of officers is to help people. That is a positive and we will always try and help people, that is our job. If people are in need, we will not see people left vulnerable.

“As other public services have had to take cuts we’ve found ourselves increasingly filling these gaps.

“I suppose the question is: Are we the right person to go and help with a particular incident?”

Mr Graham said people should be given help to direct them to the “appropriate service” and public agencies should be “joined up” in how they work.

“It’s about trying to solve problems rather than bouncing them between organisations,” he added.

On other issues, Mr Graham said the savings needed during ongoing cost-cutting measures still posed “a massive challenge” but said the force should not lose track of its main purpose.

“The key thing is we keep focused on what we are here to do, which is keep people safe and deliver a police and crime plan,” he said.

There has been a drop in overall police numbers in recent years following spending cuts.

Mr Graham said: “What we’ve tried to do is protect the frontline. The greatest reduction in staff has come from support staff.

“But it is getting increasingly hard to protect the frontline.

“So what we are trying to do is get maximum bang for our buck. We have to make sure officers are as productive as they can be.

“In the past, officers might go to job and then back to the police station.

“Over the last few years we’ve tried to give officers equipment within their vehicles, effectively a desktop computer out in their van.

“There will be fewer officers but they should be spending quite a bit more time out where the public can see them.”

Mr Graham said the force measured its “share price” in public trust, mentioning examples of scandals in policing nationally, such as the Hillsborough disaster.

“Without trust in the police we can’t be effective,” he said. “We need the public to give us information and trust we can act upon it with integrity.

“I believe the public of Cumbria can differentiate between national events and their own experience of policing in this county.

“I believe we have a good relationship and a good level of trust. But we can’t take that for granted.For that trust to be maintained, openness and integrity have got to be at the heart of how we operate.

“I don’t want Cumbria Constabulary to be in the news for anything other than what we are doing to protect the public of Cumbria.”

Cumbria’s crime commissioner, Richard Rhodes, described the appointment as “a new start” for the force.

“We will take advantage of Mr Graham’s skills and experience and begin to move forward,” added Mr Rhodes.

Have your say

Pippin - your comments are uneducated, unwarranted and completely incorrect. OK you sound very jealous, and that is your problem. Police and Fire Service personnel cannot retire at 50 and if they do retire at 55 after 30 years (which Civil Servants/Local Government Officers may also do) they can only get highly paid jobs if they are qualified and able to do them. Dear me - and why do they get these pensions - because they pay a vast amount of their pay towards them! 15% ... think about that! Oh well, there's no stopping silly comments like yours appearing on here. I feel very sorry for you as you are wound up and upset about something which is incorrect. Poor you.

Posted by Joy on 11 August 2014 at 22:16

What this says to me is, cut the force and spend the money elsewhere. I'm not sure how useful someone is sat in a police car in the middle of nowhere catching pensioners doing a few over the speed limit. When I have used the police for thieving toerags they do absolutely nothing but then I get offered counselling to ease my materialistic loss. Pointless service, I would rather my family had access to the latest cancer treatments. Also who in earth retires at 50 and then takes ANOTHER overpaid job at sellafield. Their are nurses who have to work until they drop and then they don't get anything like those pensions. Same for the fire service.

Posted by Pippin on 7 August 2014 at 18:47

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