Next top cop ready for challenge of keeping boots on the thin blue line

Lancashire's next top cop is keen to find new ways to keep boots on the thin blue line in the face of growing demand and cash cuts.

Clive Grunshaw congratulated Andy Rhodes on his appointment
Clive Grunshaw congratulated Andy Rhodes on his appointment

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Rhodes, who grew up on the Fylde coast and held his first policing post in Blackpool, is keen to see technology play its part as bosses struggle to handle tighter budget and the demand placed on the force by social problems and the growth in online crime.

The county’s current second in command was appointed to the top job on Wednesday following a two-day interview process and is due to replace Steve Finnigan when he retires in June.

And he knows budget cuts across the public sector are having a serious knock-on effect on police operations.

Coupled with a huge rise in internet based crime, Deputy Chief Const Rhodes is accutely aware of the need to squeeze more from limited resources.

And he is keen to find ways to keep the pressure off stretched community cops.

He said: “We’ve got a situation across the whole of the public sector where people are taking costs out. The consequences of that are being felt.

“We’re seeing it with Accident and Emergency, ambulances, social care. The pressures are there.”

The Gazette last year highlighted the pressure officers were under to deal with issues such as mental health, public safety and substance abuse.

The vast majority – 80 per cent – of incidents police are alerted to are not crime related.

It’s a situation which Deputy Chief Const Rhodes knows poses a challenge.

He said: “A lot of the people who are needing these services are repeat callers.

“We are looking at ways we can reduce the demand they place on us, by looking at what services might be out there for them.

“We have to look at what resources we can find locally which can help them and in turn reduce the demand on us.”

One of the keys, says Deputy Chief Const Rhodes, to achieving that goal is investing in community policing and giving those with the greatest local knowledge the freedom to work on their own initiative.

He said: “When it comes to local policing we are swimming against the tide.

“But we decided this is what the public want us to be.

“We are completely re-organising what we do and how we work.

“There is now a place based model with a focus on communities not individuals.

“A senior officer will have his or her patch and they have complete freedom to work with everybody in their area, any group they like.

“We know there are organisations we may have overlooked.

“But we don’t want officers to draw lines around their patch.

“In the past if there was a persistent offender it might have been tempting to simply try to move that issue, that person, off your patch.

“We don’t want those traditional boundaries, we don’t want that mindset.

“We want to be working to find ways to solve the issue.”