Police chiefs have expressed their concern at the possibility of officers being sent from the West Midlands to other parts of the country in the event of a no deal Brexit.
Under the police’s ‘mutual aid’ arrangements, forces are obliged to offer support to each other in response to a major event or incident, usually in the form of officers.
This could mean officers from the West Midlands being sent to UK ports to help deal with issues stemming from a hasty exit from the EU.
Speaking at this week’s Strategic Policing and Crime Board, Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson admitted he was concerned that his already stretched force could lose further numbers as a result of Brexit.
He also expressed concerns about the possibility of European criminals evading capture if the UK leaves the EU without the proper arrangements in place.
“I think at a previous meeting I was at we talked about mutual aid in the form of traffic officers, possibly being sent down to Dover or to ports to support forces in that area,” he said.
“But it does cross my mind in the context of the last few weeks that if we are using mutual aid in that way aren’t these officers being drawn from other tasks, like tackling knife crime?
“It is unfortunate in the extreme that at a moment when police resources are under so much pressure from other criminality that’s going on in our area we’re having to spend so much time and energy on this issue, with all the uncertainty that’s going with it.”
“One of my main concerns is, and remains, that whatever scenario we have it does look as though serious criminals who get themselves to existing European countries may then evade being caught and brought to justice, and that is a major concern of mine.
“There are some seriously nasty criminals who could actually use this process to avoid justice, and that is a matter of concern to me.
“And I have to say that isn’t an issue that I saw on the side of a bus during the Brexit campaign.”
Responding to the PCC’s concerns, Chief Constable David Thompson said that the number of officers currently required is relatively low.
However, he also stated that the potential ‘ripple effect’ of a no deal Brexit was currently unclear, adding that it could well divert resources away from other areas.
“The mutual aid position is largely concentrated on ports in the south,” Mr Thompson said.
“The resource numbers are not enormous at the moment for the force, but obviously lots of the ripple effects, particularly around a no deal, are not clear.
“Of course any mutual aid does impact upon staff who are doing certain things – we might get some recompense for them, depending on what the arrangements are, but that will look like over a period of time under no deal is really hard to plan for.
“The policing set up is that we’ve got some structures intended to respond to events, and that’s probably the best we’re going to be able to do on these arrangements.
“So it’s not too huge at the moment, but certainly it will divert resources away from other things.”