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Call to arms as new police chief faces up to cop cut reality

PUBLISHED: 12:05 12 March 2015 | UPDATED: 12:05 12 March 2015

Jeff Boothe

Jeff Boothe

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New borough commander Jeff Boothe talks to the Bexley Times

Bexley has a new top cop – the borough commander – who started last week. Chief Superintendent Jeff Boothe spoke to reporter Sarah Linney about his hopes for the future of our policing...

PEOPLE in Bexley are being asked to volunteer to help reinforce the police as the service faces yet more budget cuts.

But Bexley’s new borough commander Chief Superintendent Jeff Boothe isn’t getting hung up on whether the force is underfunded – he says he just has to manage the resources he has as best he can.

“It’s not for me to get into any political discussions or debates,” said the officer, who took over the role on Monday last week.

“We need to recognise the economic climate we are working in. All public services have faced reductions in their budgets.

“It’s about using the resources we do have as effectively as possible. I will do the job with the officers I have available.

“I will also be looking at the use of volunteers, Neighbourhood Watch, special constables and Shopwatch.”

It is, many will think, a sorry state of affairs when even the police force needs help from volunteers because there are no longer enough paid staff to do the job properly.

But Mr Boothe says it is not necessarily a bad thing.

“Volunteers want to give something back to the community and get involved, and we encourage that. Thousands of volunteers helped with the Olympics,” he said.

“I would encourage the people of Bexley to be volunteers. We are policing their community – it’s important for them to be part of it.”

Mr Boothe, 50, has come to Bexley after almost a quarter of a century working for British Transport Police, during which time he was involved at a high level with the policing of the Olympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the funeral of Baroness Thatcher.

“That’s very challenging as it’s about working with different forces, but you just put the training you have been given into practice,” he said.

“Policing is policing, wherever you work.

“I joined the Met because I wanted a new challenge. I’ve always worked closely with them from early on in my career, and have been involved in murder inquiries with them, so I have always had an eye on them and then this fantastic opportunity came up.”

He says he wants to talk to as many people in the borough as possible so he can discuss their concerns.

“The key thing for me will be speaking to the general public. We need to be having regular engagement with people and finding out what their fears are,” he said.

“People want to know that we are focusing on what’s important to them. They want to know that if there’s an issue, the police will be on hand to respond to it.

“You should treat a victim of crime as if they were a member of your own family. Be compassionate, be professional, follow up to let them know what action you are taking and what the result is.

“But it’s not only about crime levels – it’s about people’s perceptions too. There’s always the potential for people to have a perception that things are worse than they are, and what they read in the papers and see on TV can influence that.”

But, surely, we only report crimes that have actually happened - and in actual fact most crime goes unreported by the media, either because it isn’t newsworthy or because we don’t know about it.

“I’m not going to get into a debate about what makes headline news and what doesn’t,” Mr Boothe added.

“Our focus remains crime reduction and increasing the confidence of the general public.”

And he says it is important that the contribution of all the police and police staff in Bexley is recognised.

“I believe passionately that if you treat people with respect, integrity and compassion, they will want to work with you. No one comes to work to not do a good job,” he said.

“I’m here to do the best job I can do, but I am very much about a team ethic. I am the figurehead, but it’s not all going to be down to me - the changes and improvements that we bring will be collective.”

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