THE wellbeing of under pressure Dorset Police officers is one of the top priorities for the force’s new chief constable.

Speaking at the end of his first week in the job, James Vaughan spoke candidly about the strain officers are under and how he aims to tackle that.

And he said if all goes according to plan, Dorset Police could be merged with Devon and Cornwall possibly by the end of next year.

“If we look after our workforce better, they will be able to look after the public better”, he said.

“Policing is stretched and we have been under strain and we need to make some investment so officers can sustain things going forward.

“We will continue to look at the nature of our demand; we get half a million calls for our services a year and 1.5million across our alliance with Devon and Cornwall.”

He aims to evaluate the way demand is dealt with by exploring new methods with partners including as Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and other organisations.

“This isn’t about us saying we’re not going to do things. But we do have to find ways to make sure the right response is the first response.”

Speaking about the impact of cuts and increasing demand on shrinking forces, Mr Vaughan added: “There is rising strain on frontline policing. When I meet officers, they tell me they are struggling to manage the workload.

“We can see this by the rise in referrals to occupational health services. I can visibly see the strain and that’s not a great place to be.

“We have around 2,000 people that come to work here and they come to do a good job. I’m not sure we always make it as easy to do that as we can.”

Mr Vaughan detailed an initiative he has launched called ‘100 little things’, where officers are asked to tell him the small changes which would help them do their job.

And he says despite the challenges, it is not all doom and gloom, with Dorset Police having the highest public confidence of forces in the country.

Speaking about the challenges facing police in Dorset, he said the rising demand on their services resulted in increasing strain.

Complexity of offences also caused further pressures, such as sexual offences, modern slavery and child sexual exploitation and the rise in cyber crime also presented additional challenges.

Looking to the potential merger between Dorset Police and Devon and Cornwall, Mr Vaughan said if all went to plan, it could be as early as the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020, ahead of Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

And he moved to reassure Dorset residents, saying although the merger would mean further savings at the top, it would result in continuity and increased resilience for policing in Dorset.

“There is not much more we can do; we are cut to the bone.

“The merger would make us the fifth largest police force in the country, with 7,000 people to draw upon.”