TOWN councillors in Kimberley said they felt ‘disgusted’ and ‘embarrassed’ after being told by supermarket staff that the town’s police officers were moving into a room at the back of their store.
After being kept in the dark by the police force over a string of changes to policing, councillors said the latest plan to move officers into a room at the back of Sainsbury’s was the ‘final straw’ and ‘clarification’ that the station was closing down.
Cllr Steve Brunt said: “The closure is imminent. It’s obvious they don’t want us to know. They are going behind out backs to get this up and running.
“The police know we are campaigning about it and we have even written to them asking for answers. But nothing.”
The town councillors are furious at the lack of public consultation and said they were embarrassed at being informed about the goings on in the town by members of the public.
“We are there to represent the community and then we’ve got the community telling us what’s happening. It’s embarrassing.”
The Advertiser reported at the beginning of May that officers had been asked to ‘keep an eye out’ for places where they could be based out in the community.
Officers in other areas of the county were moved out to community bases last year after the force closed several stations down to save money in its budget.
Kimberley councillors were told talks over Sainsbury’s had been taking place for over a month and police officers had been out to visit the site.
And Sgt Andy Browning said: “It is still up in the air. I can confirm that there’s a room being prepared but it has to go through the Police Authority for the final go ahead.”
But Cllr Brunt said Sainsbury’s was ‘wholly unsuitable’.
“You can’t lead people through the store with handcuffs. People will be shouting about human rights. What about potentially violent criminals? Would they take the chance leading them through Sainsbury’s putting the public at risk? It’s ridiculous.
“How do people get in when the shop shuts at 10pm? There won’t be a phone outside like there is at the station.”
Councillors claim the police force will blame an eventual closure on a ‘lack of footfall’ to the station – but say they have created the lack of footfall themselves by gradually taking officers and services away bit by bit.
“They withdrew CID, then response officers, victim support and then front counter staff. It’s all very clever stuff,” said Cllr Brunt
Cllr Plumb said it was ‘closure by stealth’.
If plans go ahead it would be Kimberley beat officers Paul Toon and Lara Holbrook moving into the room at the back of the supermarket.
A police spokesperson said: “We are looking at our entire estate portfolio, in particular the stations that are poorly used by the public and have very few officers or staff working from them.
“A number of alternative options are being looked at including co-location into council buildings or shops.
“We want our officers to remain at the heart of the community, directly serving those who live there. In agreement with the Police Authority, no police station will close until an alternative location is found.”