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Suffolk: Online petition to keep control room bombarded with pleas from current and former staff

PUBLISHED: 13:46 03 March 2014 | UPDATED: 13:46 03 March 2014

David Ellesmere at police control room protest meeting

David Ellesmere at police control room protest meeting

Archant

Dozens of serving and former Suffolk police officers and staff have spoken out publicly against plans to move the county emergency control room to Norfolk.

They are among more than 2,000 people who have signed a petition against the relocation of the police control room in a money-saving move.

The online petition hosted by Unison has been inundated with signatures as well as comments over the weekend, including from more than 50 former and current employees in the force.

33 of those who left comments indicated that they work or used to work in the force’s control room, while an additional 25 said they were or had been employed by the force in some way – mostly as frontline officers.

Last week the EADT revealed that senior members of Suffolk and Norfolk Constabularies were proposing to relocate Suffolk’s force control room to one shared by both police forces in Wymondham, near Norwich.

This newspaper has launched a campaign against such a move, which would leave Suffolk without a single emergency service control room. Those serving both the ambulance and fire services have already moved to neighbouring counties.

The Unison petition’s webpage has received a torrent of impassioned pleas to keep the police control room in Suffolk.

One person who said he was formerly employed by Suffolk Constabulary said: “This domination of us by Norfolk has got to stop. It is important to retain our own control room where staff have great local knowledge and despite advances in technology this is a key factor to successful policing.”

Another said: “I moved to Suffolk to work for the Constabulary 22 years ago, from a county I knew like the back of my hand. It was a steep learning curve and I was totally reliant on the local knowledge of my colleagues.

“Local knowledge and experience are critical if we are to give the people of Suffolk the service they deserve.”

A woman who used to work in the control room said she was “appalled” by the proposal.

“If this goes ahead, it is an inevitability that one day a member of the public will die as a result of vital time lost when a call is logged or dispatched by a member of staff without the necessary local knowledge of a possibly remote location or, worse still, officers being dispatched to the wrong location,” she said. “This is a complete outrage.”

A current worker in the control room said the proposal would amount to “constructive dismissal (sic)”, due to the “prohibitive” cost of travel to work.

Another current worker said staff were “already working to capacity” and the public and officers would be put at risk if staff had to take on more work due to a reduction in numbers.

“One person can only handle a certain amount before things start getting missed through no fault of their own,” he said. “If it was your loved ones - you’d want them to be more protected from this and find others ways to save the money. After all, how can you put a price on people’s lives?”

Tim Passmore, Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, has said that he is sceptical about the proposed merger and that he will only agree to it if he believes it is in the best interests of the people of Suffolk.

Terry Hunt, EADT editor, said: “The comments of the former and current police workers add enormous weight to our campaign. After all, they are the best people to comment on this vitally important issue. Once again, we call on Suffolk’s police chiefs to abandon this muddle-headed and frankly dangerous proposal, and find financial savings elsewhere, away from the front-line of policing.”

If you support our campaign to keep Suffolk’s frontline policing local - or if you disagree with it - please let us know. We would also like to have your ideas on how the police can save money without jeopardising frontline policing. We will make sure that your views are seen seen by the decision-makers. Write to: Keep Suffolk’s Policing Local, East Anglian Daily Times, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

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