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Vera Baird’s response to today’s statement from Theresa May

20th January 2016

Today the Home Office issued a written statement and Summary of Consultation Responses on ‘Reforming the Powers of Police Staff and Volunteers’.

Responding to this consultation, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, said:

“When Theresa May states she is ‘committed to finishing the job of police reform’ she needs to think very carefully when suggesting that police forces are able to identify volunteers who specialise in accountancy or computing for cyber and finance inquiries.

“Just before Christmas the government couldn’t get its own finances in order when it attempted to change the policing funding formula on a number of occasions they left forces not knowing how much money they were getting.  Police finance is a big part of ensuring we have enough money to keep officers on the ground – this needs full time staff, who know the issues, work closely with the Chief Constable and Police & Crime Commissioners rather than imposing on volunteers to provide such service.

“Cybercrime needs proper funding, the last set of data, published in September 2015, suggested more than seven million frauds and cybercrimes had been committed in England and Wales in the 12 months to the end of June.   Computer hacking, on line fraud need police officers to have enhanced skills to ensure the seven million incidents are fully investigated.  By all means, use the support of IT specialists – but this is a policing issue, and local residents need to know that the government is providing the funding to ensure this ever increasing crime is being investigated properly.

“If criminals are switching from stealing cars to swindling people on line – this is the job of a police officer to investigate not a volunteer.  By all means call upon their IT expertise, but the public must know where the boundaries are.

“Here in Northumbria, we value the work of volunteers who do a sterling job – however, they don’t want to be full time police officers.  They want to give something back to the community and I will always welcome that support from residents and local businesses.  However, the Home Secretary has a duty to ensure her police reforms don’t replace officers with volunteers.  There is only so much a volunteer can give, without feeling taking advantage of – the Home Secretary appears to have taken advantage of the good will given to forces across England and Wales by asking for more.”