Fire chiefs with no crime fighting experience will be given the opportunity to run police forces under new government plans, which have been branded “a dangerous move” by the Fire Brigades Union.
The Home Office has confirmed both chief constables and chief fire officers would be eligible to apply for the new joint service posts. Ministers have agreed to introduce a statutory duty requiring all three emergency services to collaborate more to increase efficiency and effectiveness.
Dave Green, from the Fire Brigades Union, stated he had very serious concerns that communities would react badly to firefighters working so closely with the police. He called it “A dangerous move, which blurs the lines and puts at risk the good work we do in fostering community relations, which could be completely wrecked by aligning ourselves with the police, predominantly a law enforcement service”.
Some parts of England and Wales already see these kinds of co-operative initiatives.
Northamptonshire, East Midlands, Lincolnshire and Suffolk share many services including retained firefighters who respond to medical calls, delivering first aid and administering defibrillation and resuscitation to heart attack victims and shared fire and police stations, used by retained firefighters and police Safer Neighbourhood Teams
And in County Durham, Two officers who are currently working out of the local police station in the town of Stanhope answer 999 calls from a special tri-service vehicle, equipped with firefighting gear and medical equipment.
Police and fire minister Mike Penning stated: “We believe that better joint working can strengthen the emergency services, deliver significant savings and produce benefits for the public.
“We will enable them to take on responsibility for fire and rescue services where a local case is made.”
“This is about smarter working. It simply doesn’t make sense for emergency services to have different premises, different back offices and different IT systems when their work is so closely related and they often share the same boundaries.”