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Sirens fall silent as cash cuts hit West Midlands Police

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Police officers are being forced to drive cars without emergency sirens due to cash cuts - resulting in delays in attending robberies, burglaries and assaults.

There have been more than 100 reports in the past 12 months of police attending urgent matters without a siren in the West Midlands.

As a result, there is said to be 'huge frustration' among officers, who feel they are 'letting the public' down as they struggle to get to crime scenes within the target of 15 minutes.

The 109 Vauxhall Corsa patrol cars being used have blue lights but no sirens and were originally intended for neighbourhood policing and non-urgent inquiries. However, according to the Police Federation, they are being deployed to more emergencies due to the reduction in staff caused by the Government's swinging budget cuts to West Midlands Police.

Officers are ordered to drive the Corsa at 'patrol speed' and obey the rules of the road. The absence of a siren means they cannot get traffic to move out of the way.

Crime Commissioner David Jamieson was today aiming to launch an investigation into the situation at the Strategic Policing and Crime Board.

West Midlands Police Federation health and safety boss Pete Harkness said: "More and more emphasis is being put on the Corsa in the answering of emergency calls. In these circumstances, the lack of a siren creates huge frustration among the officers driving them. They feel they are letting the public down."

One police officer, who did not want to be named, revealed how he arrived in a Corsa patrol car too late to save a member of the public from being assaulted by a drink driver.

The officer said: "The caller was frustrated when we finally arrived after the suspect had disappeared. He shouted 'where were you?'. When I explained the situation he replied 'this defies belief in this day and age."

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Another added that 'corners are being cut and lives could be put at risk'.

Police Federation branch deputy chairman Tom Cuddeford said he was working with the force to find a solution.

Tom Cuddeford

"The reality is that the Corsa is being utilised in response to emergency calls," he said. "We know there is a lot of unhappiness about this among our officers and are currently in negotiations with the force command team to find an appropriate way forward on the issue. Our officers want to protect the public and catch criminals. We get frustrated when we are not provided with the tools for the job because that impacts on the public."

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Superintendent Kerry Blakeman, from the force's Operations department, said: "Any officer can respond to an incident if they are suitably trained to drive at speed and are in an appropriate vehicle - with lights and siren. Officers who are not appropriately trained and/or driving an appropriate vehicle can attend an incident as quickly and safely as possible while complying with the Road Traffic Act just as members of the public should.

"Incidents graded as 'immediate' are responded to as soon as possible, usually in a matter of minutes and on many occasions require the use of lights and sirens. At no point was the Corsa intended for response work as it is a low performance vehicle."

Up to 2,500 West Midland Police officers and civilian staff are set to be axed in the next four years as the force battles to save a further £120m because of cuts in Government funding.

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