CHANGES are being made to the way police officers operate as part of a major force restructure.

As part of the reorganisation, officers at Bolton are due to be centralised at Scholey Street in Burnden.

The changes are part of the latest review of resource allocation by Greater Manchester Police to "offer the best response" to reported incidents as well as a better follow-up.

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Sgt Peter Crowe, who is in charge of operations in Bolton town centre and Halliwell, said: "The officers at Bolton are likely to be working from a single police station, Scholey Street; that isn't a negative thing. The neighbourhood staff still work out of the other stations and all officers have tablet devices so their reason to be at the station is limited to prosecution file work, more complex crime investigations, of lunchtime. In essence, officers are encouraged to be on patrol and have the equipment to allow that to happen."

Greater Manchester Police's review of the current four-shift system was commissioned under the internal brand of Operation Ergo.

Previously, with larger numbers of officers, the force operated on a five-shift rota basis, covering day, afternoon and night shifts.

However, cuts to police funding meant this changed to a four-shift system that is currently in play.

Sgt Crowe said: "The four-shift system which was rather complex in how the officers covered the day shifts, afternoons and nights.

"Added to the complex nature of the shifts, the savagery of the funding cuts has meant that we are seeing officer numbers comparable to the 1970s, during which time cybercrime, complex fraud, serious sexual offences and serious offends against the person were either not on the agenda or were significantly less prevalent."

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Moving forward, officers will adopt the following shift pattern: working two day shifts, then two afternoon shifts and finally two night shifts, followed by four days off.

"The public shouldn't really see a dramatic difference from Operation Ergo", Sgt Crowe said.

However, it is not yet known how the new shifts will impact the force. Police officers will finish at 7am on their first day off. "While some shift periods will vary, the officers will generally work a 10-hour day", Sgt Crowe said, "meaning they could work around 60 hours in a single set of shifts."

Police divisions across the region are moving to the new shift pattern at their own pace.

It it thought that Bolton will adopt the new processes in April or May next year.

Cllr Hilary Fairclough, who represents Astley Bridge on Bolton Council, raised concerns about the impact of these changes on areas outside of Bolton town centre at an area forum meeting last week.

She said: "This centralisation to Scholey Street must have some impact on timings.

"Peak times between the town centre and Astley Bridge up Blackburn Road can take in excess of 20 minutes. It seems to me that people will lose confidence.

"We often have a low number of police in Astley Bridge. That may be the same in other areas. I'm not hugely confident this change will be for the better."

Responding to Cllr Fairclough's concerns at the area forum, Sgt Stuart Williams said that police officers will begin their shifts at Astley Bridge police station.

He said: "There is nothing stopping officers from using Astley Bridge as a satellite base.

"Hopefully the officers will feel more part of a team if they are parading on with larger numbers at Scholey Street."

PC Mark Flannery added: "Response teams moving to Scholey Street will primarily be for that morning briefing. Once that is over, they will all be mobile.

"They will not be waiting at Scholey Street. Jobs are likely to come in and they will be on the move.

"These changes will make sure the officers are looked after correctly."

Chief Superintendent Stuart Ellison said: “Greater Manchester Police has been trialling a new operating model around shift patterns and how to deliver neighbourhood policing as effectively as possible.
“Bolton has been assessing the effectiveness of adopting this model in this borough.
“A range of options are being assessed but we remain committed to protecting the people of Bolton and operating from our existing buildings, including Scholey Street and Astley Bridge.”