Last year we began a review into the structure of our force, with a focus on finding out whether the current structure, put in place in 2010, was still the right one to deal with the demands of modern-day policing and the challenges put forward from changes in policing and in society.
In 2023, we are working in a more complex environment, with a rise in recent years in digital crime and increasingly harmful and complex offences such as child sexual exploitation and county drugs lines.
Following research and engagements with our officers, staff, partner organisations and communities, we have made the decision to change to a five-area command model, to be called Local Command Units (LCUs).
The five new command areas are:
All 108 neighbourhood teams will remain in place as before, with additional officers in many parts of the Thames Valley.
The move to a five-area command model will:
Strengthen neighbourhood policing
Protect vulnerable people
Respond to demand
Protect our workforce
Earlier this year we asked you for your thoughts on our proposals. We received almost 500 responses. Thank you to everyone who contributed. Your feedback was collated and considered by our Chief Constable’s management team during the decision-making process.
Our proposals under a five-area command model aims to strengthen policing in our communities by:
Maintaining the same number of geographic neighbourhood teams but enhancing the number of officers within them
Bringing in 80 additional neighbourhood officers, funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner
Further resources can be put into neighbourhood policing by converting some current vacancies in PCSO roles into police officer posts dedicated to supporting neighbourhood policing. We recognise PCSOs as a critical part of visible patrolling and community engagement, and this conversion will not result in the removal of PCSOs. However, with no clear career progression and lack of consistent supervision, the PCSO role is currently difficult to recruit and retain.
We will be addressing the challenges of the PCSO role by maintaining the current number of PCSOs in post alongside trialling a new PCSO Supervisor role. This new role will offer career progression to existing PCSOs as well as more support through greater supervision. We hope this will increase satisfaction with the role and encourage our PCSOs to remain with us for the long-term.
Moving to a five-area command model gives us the flexibility to refocus current teams and move resource to where it is needed. This would allow:
Geographic neighbourhood teams to engage in community, patrol and enforcement activity.
Dedicated officers to work with schools
10 officers focused on mental health, ensuring we are aligned with partner agencies to help the most vulnerable
Protecting vulnerable people
Our proposals aim to improve our service to the most vulnerable in our communities by:
Creating a new Harm Reduction Unit, providing stronger governance and more consistent harm reduction activity, such as the monitoring and enforcement of Domestic Violence Protection Orders. This will be done across areas and focus on safeguarding and harm prevention opportunities within mental health, exploitation of children and vulnerable adults and domestic abuse.
Creating officer posts dedicated to obtaining and managing protection orders that support victims of crime such as stalking and domestic abuse
Responding to demand
Our five-area model allows us to put resource where demand is by creating a Proactive Team focused on County Drugs Lines and Serious Acquisitive Crime.
This will take the existing teams and put in a consistent structure that will have a good balance of supervisory ratios, dedicated senior officer support and opportunities to work more effectively across areas.
Protecting our workforce
Policing is under pressure, and our teams, particularly our frontline officers, face high demand coupled with significant numbers of newly recruited officers. These new officers much bring much-needed additional capacity into our force, as well as diversity of experience and backgrounds, but need time and support to develop into experienced and effective police officers. We are looking to free up officer time to create capacity to support neighbourhood teams and improve victim service.
Within a five-area model, sergeant posts can return to frontline response and be redeployed to support our new officers.
Response times are what we refer to as the time taken from the receipt of a 999 call to our officers attending an incident. Incident response times depend on a range of factors including how many officers are available to respond, the number of staff able to take calls, the workloads of officers and where response officers are based.
At this stage of the review there are no plans to change the location of any of the response bases. However, moving to a five-area command model could mean more officers based on neighbourhoods, which could reduce overall response times.
We know time taken to respond to emergencies is essential. Under a five-area model we will strive to maintain current response times and make improvements where we can.
We will now begin the implementation of the new five-area command model. This will not be an immediate change, but a phased approach to ensure a smooth transition. We will be commencing the changes within Buckinghamshire first, ensuring that all changes are fit for purpose and work for the local area. Once complete, roll out will continue to the remaining areas of the force in turn.
We are conscious that these changes cannot be rushed and so want to ensure any decisions made are what is best for the communities we serve.
About the Force Review
The aim of the review is to make sure our force is structured in the best possible way so that it can meet current and future challenges.
It began in May 2022 with a focus on finding out whether the current structure, put in place in 2010, was still the right one to deal with the demands of modern-day policing and the challenges put forward from changes in policing and in society.
The last review of this nature was completed in 2010. In 2022, we are working in a much more complex environment, with growing demand and a greater focus on vulnerability, prevention and digital crime. Traditional crime types, such as burglary and property theft, have fallen, and been replaced by new, complex and increasingly harmful forms of crime such as child sexual exploitation, sexual violence and county drugs lines.
Our force structure needs to reflect these changes and critically, make changes that support our workforce, many of whom are under pressure.
The driver for this review is about addressing changes in policing and in society so that our force is fit for the future; for our people, our partners and the public we serve. Any changes in structure will allow further investment into frontline service delivery; especially with regards to domestic abuse, serious crime investigation and neighbourhood policing.
Since the project began, we have benchmarked our force against six others, looked at long-term trends in policing, carried out extensive resource modelling and spoken to over 100 people of all ranks in our local policing teams to understand what works and what doesn’t. In October a set of initial recommendations on local policing structures were put to the Chief Constable’s management team, who decided to take forward two options from a list of five. They were:
A continuation of the current 11 LPA model, but with enhancements where possible, or
A switch to a five-area command model; the five areas would be Oxfordshire, West of Berkshire, East of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.
We then undertook a second phase of engagement with our workforce, partners and the public to seek their views on the two proposals. This feedback has helped to inform our Chief Constable’s Management Team as part of their decision on a final option.
It’s important to us that any changes happen carefully and in a phased way so that learning can be taken and changes made if necessary.
We will now take some time to consider how we move to implement these changes. Some work has already taken place to identify where we need to map out the critical elements to making these changes work. The first area to go-live will likely be Buckinghamshire as it already has one authority and has experience with a recent LPA amalgamation.