Derbyshire Police has been accused of deliberately ‘running down’ the numbers of detainees at Buxton’s police custody suite to justify its closure.
The suite at the town’s Silverlands Police Station are set to close on July 1 to make a saving of £195,233 - which will be reinvested in more officers for the High Peak.
Police say the suite’s low usage - at just ten per cent of that at Derby or 17 detainees per week - means they cannot justify keeping it open.
Instead, High Peak officers will drive detainees to either Ashton or Cheadle Police Stations in Greater Manchester, or Chesterfield.
However, the announcement has been met with uproar - with many saying officers’ valuable time will be spent ‘taxiing’ suspects around rather than policing the High Peak.
During a public meeting in Buxton hosted by Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa yesterday (Wednesday), Buxton solicitor Kirsten Collings said she could ‘not accept (the force’s) business case for the closure’ and that Buxton Custody Suite had been ‘made to look ineffective’.
She said: “I believe the scenario has been set up to enable the force to make the decision to close Buxton.
“I am a duty solicitor and a resident in this town - I brought kids up in this town and I wouldn’t like to be doing that now.
“The drug problem in this town is unbelievable and it’s out of control.
“Several years ago if you were arrested in Bakewell or Matlock you came to Buxton - the numbers were never low.
“Crime has not dropped so low that those people were not brought to Buxton.”
Derbyshire’s deputy chief constable Rachel Swann had told the meeting how the suite was staffed by a sergeant and a detention officer ‘24-7’ while a third of the time there were ‘no prisoners at all’.
However the closure would allow the creation of two new custody investigation unit (CIU) posts - enabling officers to return to High Peak ‘much quicker’.
Mr Dhindsa told the meeting the new CIU posts would be the equivalent of another ‘1.8 full-time officers’ in the High Peak.
Ms Swann said: “I can tell you I’ve seen no evidence that numbers have been deliberately run down.
“Local officers decide where they will go - there’s been no deliberate running down of the numbers.”
Judy Gill, a former enquiries desk worker at Buxton Custody Suite, asked Mr Dhindsa if arresting officers would be expected to drive detainees back to the High Peak once released.
High Peak’s Inspector Justin Brown told her: “We are not a taxi service - we are a police service.
“We will not be providing a lift service unless there is a specific need.”
Judy also asked how realistic it was to drive detainees to Manchester and Chesterfield, taking Buxton’s extreme weather into account.
She said: “Have any of you driven around here and seen how bad the snow is?”
Ms Swann said: “We would take them to other custody suites - we can’t even get into Buxton in those circumstances.
“It will be difficult but we’ll find a way through it.”
During the meeting Mr Dhindsa and Ms Swann set out how Derbyshire Police had lost 400 police officers since 2010 due to budget cuts of £40m - while dealing with 150 recorded crimes on a daily basis.
However Mr Dhindsa pointed out how he had only agreed to raise council tax by 12 per cent since 2010 in-line with government expectations if the money went ‘directly into neighbourhoods and visible policing’.
Ms Swann said ‘High Peak and surrounding areas’ would benefit from five more local response officers, two more Safer Neighbourhood Team PCSOs, its rural crime team would be increased by five, road policing would have seven more PCs and Derbyshire’s north division CID would have six more detectives.
Ms Swann said: “Buxton is a big population and we do not want to move out of here.
“We want police visible to the community and we will have a visible presence for the people of Buxton.”