The first significant cuts to the Manx police force have been made in the merger of the southern and western neighbourhood policing teams under the command of a single inspector.
Chief Constable Gary Roberts wrote to the local authorities in the areas, explaining the decision was not one he had taken lightly, but said: ‘The considerable financial pressures facing the constabulary mean a series of changes will be necessary between now and the end of the 2015-2016 financial year. This is but the first.’
Inspector Darrill Pearson will oversee both policing teams, while former inspector in the south Jed Bibby has been promoted to acting chief inspector and he will be based at Douglas police headquarters, managing the reforms.
Mr Roberts told local authorities: ‘Inspector Pearson is a good, committed and experienced officer, who will provide a first class service to you and the people you represent.
‘He will make sure that the services we provide continue to reflect both the needs of the people of the island and our strong desire to keep people safe.’
The force has faced some serious belt tightening after its budget was cut from £15.8m five years ago to £13.3m this year, with a further £960,000 to be lost over the next two years. The number of police officers could fall to 225, from a high of 246.
Neighbourhood policing is cited as the reason crime rates in the island are so low, and the island’s example inspired Jersey to follow suit, leading to a 18 per cent reduction in crime last year.
Mr Roberts said: ‘There is no doubt that neighbourhood policing is critically important to the well being of the island.
‘I will do all that I can to preserve it, but there will inevitably have to be changes as the constabulary faces losing a significant number of officers over the next couple of years. I will do all that I can to maintain local delivery of policing, but achieving this will not be easy. You can rest assured, though, that I will be striving to maintain a neighbourhood policing model for the island.’
He is to brief politicians and local authorities on changes to come and he anticipated starting public dialogue on the constabulary’s future before this year’s TT races.
When he became chief constable a year ago, Mr Roberts told the Examiner that the police had lost 17 per cent from their budget since 2008/9.
‘Something has to give,’ he said.