Police federation chief slams cuts to key services

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Latest news from the Suffolk Free Press, suffolkfreepress.co.uk, @sfpsudbury on Twitter

A police federation chief has warned that continued cuts to the county’s force could have a damaging effect on policing in the wake of the closure of the county’s police helicopter base.

Last week, it was announced that the helicopter base at Wattisham Airfield would be closing, with the closest helicopter now based at Boreham near Chelmsford.

Mick Richardson, branch board secretary of the Suffolk Police Federation, said the decision would put more pressure on the force and could damage the level of service offered.

Reacting to the decision to close the base, he said: “Years ago, we owned our own helicopter.

“It was launched in the expectation that it would reduce the call upon officers to spend huge amounts of time and energy searching large tracts of land to locate missing people, trace criminals or manage high-speed pursuits.”

Now run nationally by National Police Air Service, he said the new cuts would have further consequences.

“They too have had to deal with cuts upon cuts and for Suffolk that means the aircraft will be a lot further away,” he said.

“It will be shared with a greater number of forces and, inevitably, the call upon it will be subject to competing demands.

“That, in turn, means that we are less likely to be able to use it and, if we do call for air support, it’ll be coming from a greater distance and take longer to arrive, and we will still have to pay a lot of money for it.”

Mr Richardson said numerous officers would again be called on to carry out the work the helicopter fulfilled.

“We simply will not have the numbers of officers available,” he said. “Police officers are not made of elastic. Stretch them too far, and they will eventually break.”