Devon and Cornwall police officers tasked with call centre work

Telephone operators Image copyright SPL
Image caption Devon and Cornwall Police said the force moved around 50 people including officers, PCSOs and other staff to assist the contact centre

Police and community support officers are being taken off patrol in Devon and Cornwall to deal with a backlog of call centre work, the BBC has learnt.

About 50 officers have been diverted to process reports of crimes filed on the internet and by email.

The force said "the significant majority were on restricted duties".

Jan Goffey, mayor of Okehampton which has lost patrol officers to call centre work, said it was a "very expensive way of doing filing work".

She said: "It would be far better if they were doing the job they were trained to do which is help the public out on the streets."

More on how officers are being taken off patrol, plus more Devon and Cornwall news

Roy Smith, whose fast food shop in the town had its window smashed, said: "It seems a bit stupid.

"I know the police are underfunded and undermanned anyway, but when you've got things like this happening there should be some sort of presence in the town."

Former police and crime commissioner Tony Hogg said earlier this year the 101 service was currently not fit for purpose and had got worse.

'Operational risks'

Devon and Cornwall Police has since encouraged people to use email or an online form to report crimes to cut delays calling the 101 non-urgent number.

In a statement, bosses said: "In response to the 101 delays, the force moved around 50 people including officers, PCSOs and other staff to assist the contact centre.

"The significant majority of these were on restricted duties therefore were unable to undertake front-line duties or their usual job role.

"The team have been recording crime information, to release our call handlers to answer 101 and 999 calls.

"This is a short term position and we expect all the staff to be returned to their original roles by Christmas."

Andrew White, chief executive of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, said he was "delighted" at the police's move because the 101 service had been "unacceptable for too long".

He said: "The delays that we had in getting crimes input to the system put the force at an operational risk.

"Important information was not being shared as soon as it should had been this risks offenders remaining at large and victims not being properly protected."

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