Seven firefighters in Devon are to be trained as police officers in what is believed to be a national first.
The Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service on-call firefighters will be trained as special constables in a new role known as a ‘community responder’.
These new community responders will have the ability to go to both fire and police-related calls.
The trial project aims to improve response times in rural and remote locations where residents sometimes wait for extended periods of time for the emergency services owing to the distance they have to travel.
The cost of the project is being funded by Devon and Cornwall’s police and crime commissioner, Alison Hernandez, who is hoping that the initiative will improve access to the emergency services for rural communities in Devon.
The seven community responders have been recruited into locations where there is a need based on risk, vulnerability and harm according to DevonLive.com – Cullompton, Crediton, Dartmouth, Honiton, Okehampton, Newton Abbot and Totnes.
Ms Hernandez told DevonLive.com:
“I’m incredibly pleased to be able to support this collaboration.
“We don’t know what future funding will look like for any of our emergency services and working together on unique projects like this will improve the service both organisations can deliver to people in Devon.
“I look forward to seeing the benefits that our communities will reap from this innovative work.”
Kevin Pearce, who will be the new community responder for Cullompton, told DevonLive.com that he was motivated to take on the role by a lifelong interest in police work.
“I think this pilot will be really beneficial – it will mean I can be more of a presence in the community and a face that people will recognise and can approach about both police and fire-related incidents and we can help reach more people.
“Everyone that I’ve spoken to about the project seems quite excited about it, it’s great to be able to enhance the presence of emergency services in communities where it’s needed.
“I’m really looking forward to being at the forefront of this trial.”
Existing special constables are now being offered the opportunity to train as on-call firefighters to expand the number of locations where community responders will operate.
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