‘Community policing needs to return’

I READ this week about the terrible case of a local man who tragically took his own life just hours after being released from police custody.

There are so many things wrong with this story it is hard to know where to begin.
Firstly, we have a policing system in which a vulnerable person, in poor mental and physical state, was first placed in custody and then released without appropriate support. More on this another time.
Secondly, did the lack of custody suite in south Wiltshire contribute to this tragic ending?
The Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon has repeatedly promised a new police station for Salisbury – both with and without a custody suite. It is almost two years since Mr Wilkinson won his by-election (after the election was re-run to the tune of £1m due to the ineligibility of the previous Conservative candidate) and yet a site has not even been identified.

In the meantime, we learn this week that the Melksham custody suite is being closed for at least eight months for refurbishment. This means that people will be held as far away as Swindon.
A quick internet search says that via public transport, assuming you have £30, it will take over three hours to get from Swindon to the south of the county. If you are released in the evening it could take up to six hours.
Vulnerable people need support in their community, not 30 or 40 miles away.
When we add in that there has been a 19% decrease in Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) across Wiltshire since 2015, one is left with the impression that the Conservatives in Swindon, Trowbridge and Westminster have forgotten our communities.

We need a return to proper community policing, where officers are visible, trusted and known personally to local people. And we need appropriate infrastructure in the South of Wiltshire; we need to build communities where people are safe – and feel safe, too.

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