THE CHIEF of police in Warwickshire has rejected claims from political rivals that tackling domestic abuse could become a ‘secondary service’ due to proposed cuts.
Warwickshire Police’s nine Domestic Abuse Risk Officers, who have a combined experience of over 70 years in the role, will be made redundant and replaced by constables as part of its ‘ongoing transformational change programme’ which will see 85 civilian staff members axed.
Labour’s candidate for Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) branded the plans a ‘total disgrace’.
Ben Twomey – who was due to stand against Conservative PCC Philip Seccombe last May before the pandemic delayed the election by a year – said: “More than half of people in Warwickshire Police custody over Christmas were arrested for domestic abuse. The increase during the pandemic is a local and national crisis.
“To choose this moment to cut an entire team of experienced and dedicated Domestic Abuse Risk Officers is a total disgrace. Cuts continue to affect the most vulnerable in our county.”
Warwick and Leamington’s Labour MP Matt Western added: “The PCC has stood by as his government’s cuts hit services for victims of abuse. Residents have faced Council Tax increases for the Police Levy each year for the past three years – amounting to a rise of almost £50 annually for a band D property.
“Local people are fed up with paying more and getting less.”
But Mr Seccombe said supporting victims of domestic abuse was one of his key priorities, having co-commissioned charity Refuge to provide the county’s Domestic Violence Service, funded initiatives which support victims and work to change offenders’ behaviour, and given emergency funding to support services during the pandemic.
He said: “It is incorrect to suggest the Domestic Abuse Unit is being disbanded. It will remain in place, with police officers undertaking an enhanced role.
“A new operating model has been developed by the force which will deliver additional capability to a number of roles, using warranted officers who can use their police powers and safeguarding responsibilities to greater effect in an enhanced role.
“I have been reassured by the force’s leadership team that the rationale for these proposals is sound and that the reforms being made are necessary. Difficult though this process undoubtedly is for those impacted, the Chief Constable has my full support in making these changes.
“Robust support services are in place to ensure the welfare of police staff colleagues throughout but there is no escaping that this is an extremely difficult time for those who are affected by the changes. I will be monitoring very closely how the force manages the transition to the new operational model.
“A consequence of the precept rises I have made locally, alongside the national ‘uplift’ funding from the government, is that the number of police officers in Warwickshire has increased by more than 200 to 1,042. This has enabled the force to redesign the way it operates to make best use of these extra resources.”
Public services union UNISON says the staff cuts will mean new officers will be taken off the beat and put behind desks.
West Midlands regional organiser Charlie Sarell said: “The wealth of experience these police staff bring to their jobs will be lost. The move also won’t result in more officers out on the streets of Warwickshire.
“UNISON will continue to campaign on behalf of police staff and the public to stop these redundancies going ahead.”