Public expectation of police ‘unrealistic’ says Cambridgeshire chief constable

PUBLIC expectations of police in the Fens might be unrealistic, the area’s top officer says.

PUBLIC expectations of police in the Fens might be unrealistic, the area’s top officer says.

Chief Constable Julie Spence says only a handful of bobbies are available to pound the streets of on 24/7 shift patterns in difficult to access rural areas.

In one of her last interviews before retiring from the post in September, she also warned that policing is “more complex” than people realise as coppers struggle to deal with online abuse, traffic incidents and public events which need police presence.

But she believes her successors are well equipped to take the force forward, saying: “People here are really committed. I think we have some really good leaders and staff who won’t let it unravel.”

Mrs Spence said: “We have 1,400 officers. They include a whole range of invisible officers protecting the public, including detectives and officers working on child protection and counter terrorism.

“At any time only approximately 700 officers are available to be visible and they will be spread over a 24/7 shift pattern.

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“In my view of the number of villages in Cambridgeshire, it doesn’t leave many to go around.”

Mrs Spence took over Cambridgeshire Constabulary in June 2005 when a Government inspector judged it to be a failing force.

On arriving at her desk, Mrs Spence said: “I could see there was a lot of work to be done.”

But she turned the force around, getting 90 per cent of calls answered with 10 seconds and increasing detection rates to 27 per cent.

Customer satisfaction also went up to 75 per cent last month.

Mrs Spence said: “I feel I can now hand the force over to someone else as a strong going concern.”

But she has railed against Home Secretary Theresa May for saying: “Your job is nothing more than to cut crime.”

“I just wish politicians would try to understand that policing is far more complex,” Mrs Spence said.

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