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Officers say move could reduce service to public
A cost-cutting move to regionalise police diving units – leaving none based in West Yorkshire – has been condemned by rank and file officers.
West Yorkshire Police Federation says it is greatly concerned about the impact the changes, which come into force next month, will have on the service to the public.
But policing chiefs insist the underwater search teams are not a rescue service and no lives will be put at risk.
From September 10, the Yorkshire and the Humber Underwater Search and Marine Unit will take over diving duties for West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, and Humberside.
It will be based on Humberside with a full-time team of nine specially-trained officers and a sergeant. Previously there were 28 divers, five of them full-time, across three forces, with West Yorkshire officers covering the North Yorkshire area.
The new unit will cost £719,000 annually – a saving of more than £406,000, which police chiefs say will be ploughed into maintaining frontline policing across the region. West Yorkshire Federation chairman Andrew Tempest-Mitchell claimed 15 West Yorkshire divers would now be redeployed into other duties.
He said: “Historically, West Yorkshire has had its own underwater unit with staff with immense skills in this area of work. Sadly, with the advent of the new regionalised unit, there will be no West Yorkshire presence, and all officers from West Yorkshire will be returned to normal duties.
“The unit, being based in Humberside, is not easily accessible from West Yorkshire, and we fear a potential loss of service in this critical area of work which involves public safety on many occasions.”
Regional policing chiefs said Underwater Search was a search and recovery function, not a rescue operation. A spokesman said: “Its primary responsibility is to support ongoing police investigations in recovering key evidence or human remains. No lives will be put at risk as a result of the establishment of this new unit, and the policing of local communities will not be adversely affected.”
The spokesman said an agreement would be in place between the four forces to ensure officers were deployed appropriately.