Police chief who 'cannot cope' wins support

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The Independent Online

A chief constable who warned that his force was being overwhelmed by violent crime has won the backing of rank-and- file officers.

A chief constable who warned that his force was being overwhelmed by violent crime has won the backing of rank-and- file officers.

The plight of Nottinghamshire Police, which has become so stretched that it has had to "farm out" murder inquiries to other forces, will be discussed in talks at the Home Office today. Opposition parties seized on remarks by the Chief Constable, Steve Green, as proof that forces were being swamped in paperwork, but were condemned by Labour MPs who said they would undermine confidence in police.

Mr Green said he had asked for help to investigate the murder last week of 34-year-old Paul Thomas, the latest in a string of fatal shootings in Nottingham. He is also considering handing over class "C" murder inquiries, such as domestic cases, to other forces. He told The Sunday Telegraph: "We are getting by because of the incredible hard work of our officers and my detectives are extremely hard-pressed to cope with all this. If they were combat troops they would be getting six months off. We are struggling to cope with the number of murders we have to deal with and we are able to cope only because we are bringing in officers from other forces."

The number of category A murders in Nottingham has risen from one every 12 to 18 months before 2001 to five a year since. Recently, the force has faced one high-profile murder inquiry after another, including the drive-by shooting of Danielle Beccan and the murder of the jeweller Marian Bates.

At present, the force is dealing with 30 investigations and has had to convert classrooms because it has run out of incident rooms. Mr Green said politicians' "fixation" with police numbers had actually led to more officers being tied up with office work. "It's frustrating to know I could make better use of the money I've got but I'm constrained from doing it because officer numbers is a political football."

John Hammond, chairman of Nottinghamshire Police Federation, said officers sympathised with the remarks. "We're coming from a historic position because we've been underfunded for a number of years. We're always trying to play catch-up so we can't become a proactive force. We're reactive and it's not sustainable. We need a minimum of 500 extra police officers and ideally 1,000 to start to compete on a level playing field."

He said Nottinghamshire received similar levels of funding to more rural forces such as Northumbria and Lancashire, despite having a large city area which required more resources. He added: "The city [of Nottingham] force is as big as some of the smaller forces. Whatever happens in the city affects the whole of Nottinghamshire. It does suck resources in. That strips away detectives from divisions and leaves a skeleton staff."

The Home Office said police funding had increased since 1997 by £750m to almost £12bn for the coming financial year, a 21 per cent rise.