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YP Letters: 999 service is vital to public reassurance

Are there sufficient police on the beat?
Are there sufficient police on the beat?
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From: Mark Burns-Williamson, Police and crime commissioner for West Yorkshire; Dee Collins, Chief Constable, West Yorkshire Police.

YOUR Editorial (The Yorkshire Post, July 26) states you await the “justification…” of the Chief Constable and PCC for taking officers off the street to answer calls in call centres.

Public reassurance begins with people knowing they can get hold of the police when ringing 999. With demand up by 15 per cent on last year, our performance – no abandoned calls in the past 12 months and an average queue time of less than five seconds – is one of the best in the country.

The decision to temporarily put some officers into the call centre was not taken lightly, but was vital in order to provide an appropriate service to those needing urgent help.

The numbers were small and the measure was temporary.

It included some officers who were on restricted rather than front-line duties.

Using some personnel who are already familiar with our various systems is the best approach given the urgency and we are constantly looking at ways with our highly dedicated call centre team to manage what is a national issue.

This enabled us to maintain performance, while new staff were recruited and trained.

Describing the role as “answering the phone” 
massively underestimates a highly-skilled and pressured 
role, in which call handlers 
have to skilfully deal with people who are often extremely distressed, vulnerable or at significant and immediate risk of harm.

We understand the value of public engagement. Neighbourhood policing has been, and always will be, the bedrock of how we police West Yorkshire. In recent years we have been fortunate enough to 
be able to recruit some more 
front-line officers and staff, helping us to maintain this presence.

But policing has also become much more complex. Some crimes which didn’t previously exist, such as cyber-enabled crime, are not necessarily tackled by officers on the street, but the crime and the victims are no less real or impactive. We have to strive to manage all of this against the backdrop of more calls, increasing vulnerability crime and cuts to pubic services across the board.

We understand the reassurance an officer on the street brings, but this has to be done in a focused way, in areas of great need, working with communities and partners to tackle problems at a local level.

Financial constraints and resourcing limitations are a reality for all public services. West Yorkshire Police has to have a flexible approach to ensure it puts resources where it is required and where, in the case of crime, there is an evidential trail for us to follow.

Call handling and that initial interaction with the public is something we must try to get right, every time, whilst giving the caller a very real expectation of what we will be able to do and when.

Brought low by ties to US

From: ME Wright, Harrogate.

TONY Blair colluded with George W Bush on torture and Guantanamo Bay. We have now withdrawn our total opposition to the death penalty (The Yorkshire Post, July 24).

How low is our political establishment prepared to drag us in cringeing deference to America? I recently joked that a post-Brexit trade deal with them would probably find us selling guns in M&S.

I’m not joking now!

From: Joe McHugh, Westbourne Grove, Otley.

WE either love or loathe the American president Donald Trump. He certainly is a man of distinction, but he lacks the charisma of Obama, Clinton and the late, great John F Kennedy.

I would not be surprised if the American people have a radical change of mind and do not re-elect him into office when the next election comes around.

Flood pledge still stands

From: Dr Thérèse Coffey, Environment Minister.

IN your article ‘Anger as city plans for flood defence rejected’ (The Yorkshire Post, July 27), Rachel Reeves MP claims the Government has “broken their promise” after the Environment Agency rejected a proposal from Leeds City Council for phase two of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme.

This is not true. Our commitment to provide better flood protection to Leeds remains unchanged. We have already spent £33m to better protect properties in Leeds as part of the phase one scheme and have currently committed £65m towards phase two; that’s almost £100m that has been or will be invested in Leeds flood management.

The Environment Agency continues to work in partnership with Leeds City Council to find the best way forward for flood defences in Leeds.

Across the country, the Government is investing £2.6bn to fund 1,500 flood-defence schemes to better protect 300,000 homes.

Free IVF is not a right

From: JG Riseley, Harcourt Drive, Harrogate.

YOUR front-page headline (The Yorkshire Post, July 21) equating the lack of free IVF with a denial of the right to family life ought not to go unchallenged.

If it did represent such a violation of internationally recognised human rights, then we would be obliged not only to provide such treatment but also to accept as refugees couples from other countries where it is not provided.

Human rights were invented primarily to protect us from 
the active interference of 
others in our lives, not to require anyone else to provide us with options which we would not otherwise have.