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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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New Cumbria police boss vows to focus on frontline

CUMBRIA’S new chief constable says fewer than 20 per cent of calls to police are about crime, describing the force as the “organisation of last resort”.

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shake on it The new chief constable of Cumbria Constabulary, Jerry Graham with police and crime commissioner for Cumbria, Richard Rhodes STUART WALKER ref: 50066151F002

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 issue 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?”

Mr Graham said only 17 per cent of calls to police were about crime, while another 18 per cent were in relation to anti-social behaviour.

He said: “We deal with a whole range of issues that wouldn’t normally be seen as a pure policing issue.

“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”.

He said: “It’s about trying to solve problems rather than bouncing them between organisations.”

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 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.

There has been a drop in overall police numbers in recent years following spending cuts. Mr Graham said cost-cutting measures still posed “a massive challenge” but said the force should not lose track of its main purpose.

He said: “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.

“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.

“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.

“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.

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

“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 police and crime commissioner, Richard Rhodes, described the appointment as “a new start” for the force.

He said: “We will take advantage of Mr Graham’s skills and experience.”

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