Police forces across the region should be scrapped and replaced by one North East force, a review of policing in England and Wales has said.
The review led by former Northumbria chief constable and ex-Met police commissioner, Lord Stevens, said that significant financial savings would be made if police forces were merged.
Northumbria University professor, Mike Rowe, was part of the review team. He said merging police forces in England could save the country £60m a year, which could be pumped back into frontline services.
“There are some fairly small police forces in the North East, with Northumbria being the largest,” he said. “There is definitely some logic to having a regional force.
“It would create a far more co-ordinated approach to policing and everyday resources such as IT and police uniforms could be procured nationally rather than by different police services.
“It’s all about economies of scale. If you draw together your resources you can create a more effective police force with more money to spend on frontline staff.”
The report also warned that neighbourhood policing is under threat and that ‘bobbies on the beat’ are disappearing.
Lord Stevens said that the police are retreating to a reactive model of policing and that neighbourhood policing must be saved.
Police forces covering Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham have lost more than 1,600 staff in the last three years.
The Northumbria force alone has lost 1,176 staff since 2010, according to figures released by the Government and there are fears of more cuts to come.
Lord Stevens said there were 37 radical recommendations in his report, including a commitment to neighbourhood policing as the building block of fair and effective policing.
He said: “Faced with budgetary constraints and the government’s insistence that police are crime fighters, there is a danger of the police being forced to retreat to a discredited model of reactive policing.”
Mr Rowe recommends that the law should be changed to make clear that the purpose of policing is to prevent crime as well as react to crime.
“One of the most significant things about the North East is its diverse policing areas,” he said. “Having an officer there, not just to respond to instances but to play a role in community safety is vitally important.
“Neighbourhood police on the beat, held to the highest standards, with priorities set by local people.”
To raise standards of professionalism, the report recommends police officers be given a new chartered status and could face being struck off a professional register if they are found to have committed serious misconduct.