Thames Valley Police
Thames Valley Police, formerly known as Thames Valley Constabulary, is the territorial police force responsible for policing the Thames Valley area covered by the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. It is one of the largest territorial police forces in England covering 2,200 square miles (5,700 km2) and a population of over 2.1 million people. The police force consists of 4,244 constables, 506 special constables, 466 Police Community Support Officers (PCSO) and 2,576 police staff.
|Thames Valley Police|
Logo of Thames Valley Police
|Motto||Sit pax in valle tamesis|
Let there be peace in the Thames Valley
|Annual budget||£382.6 million|
|Operations jurisdiction||Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom|
|Map of Thames Valley Police's jurisdiction.|
|Size||2,200 square miles (5,700 km2)|
|Legal jurisdiction||England and Wales|
|Overviewed by||Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary/Independent Police Complaints Commission|
|Police and Crime Commissioner responsible|
Policing in Thames Valley dates back to 1773 when Newbury Borough Police were operating as a small police force; their officers' duties included usual policing activity as well as repairing gates and bridges. The force was one of around twenty borough forces that amalgamated with their county police force. These were Buckinghamshire Constabulary, Oxfordshire Constabulary, Berkshire Constabulary, Reading Borough Police and Oxford City Police founded in 1857, 1857, 1856, 1836 and 1868 respectively. Under the Police Act 1964 these five forces were amalgamated on 1 April 1968 to form Thames Valley Constabulary.
Thames Valley Police is overseen by a locally elected Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner. The incumbent commissioner is Anthony Stansfeld, a Conservative Party candidate elected with 34.7% of the votes in the first round of voting and 57.2% of the votes after the second round. The police and crime commissioner is scrutinised by the Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel.
Thames Valley was previously overseen by a police authority consisting of 19 members, made up of councillors, members from unitary authorities, independents and a magistrate.
In April 2011, the force adopted a Local Policing Model. As a result, the force is now split into twelve Local Policing Areas (LPAs), each led by a superintendent. These consist of one or two local authority areas. These are in turn split into a number of neighbourhoods which are based off ward and parish boundaries. This alignment is to ensure that local policing services are delivered in an accountable manner.
Local Policing Areas
- Bracknell and Wokingham*
- Cherwell and West Oxfordshire
- Chiltern and South Bucks
- Milton Keynes
- South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse
- West Berkshire
- Windsor and Maidenhead
(*Bracknell LPA and Wokingham LPA merged to form the Bracknell & Wokingham LPA in early 2016.)
Each area is responsible for delivering response policing, neighborhood policing teams and a local priority crime and Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Other functions that used to be held at Basic Command Unit (BCU) level (essentially a cluster of geographically grouped LPAs) are now delivered at Force Headquarters level using a shared service approach.
Neighbourhood Policing Team (NHPT)
Thames Valley Police has a local policing team working from every police station. These teams consist of officers, community support, special constables and police staff who work to patrol and attend local incidents. They use marked vans which read neighbourhood policing on the side rear panel under the Thames Valley Police corporate logo. These officers will typically be unarmed and rarely carry taser weapons. The neighbourhood police vans double up as prisoner transport vans. However, most LPA police vehicles are available to this unit.
Emergency Response Team
LPA Response units work out of most major stations in the force area and are tasked with patrolling and responding to 999 calls. These officers are often constables issued with Taser weapons. These officers may be tasked to patrol high crime areas for an increased police presence or to conduct follow up investigations. Both the Neighbourhood Policing Group and Incident Response Unit units all share the LPA standard Vauxhall Astra police car. Some rural police offices make use of Mitsubishi L200's as a more effective vehicle.
Police Dog Section
Thames Valley Police have approximately 52 operational police dogs. The dogs are mostly donated from the RSPCA or public, and are trained at the force headquarters. They usually serve until they are 8 years old, receiving refresher training every year, and then living with their handler after retirement. They are part of the Joint Operations Unit with Hampshire Police. The dog section operates with marked and unmarked Mitsubishi Outlanders as well as Ford Mondeo estates.
Roads Policing Unit
Thames Valley Police patrols 196 miles (315 km) of motorways including the M1, M4, M40, A329(M), A404(M) and M25, as well as many other 'A' route roads including the busy A43.
These units are based at 6 geographical traffic bases (Milton Keynes, Taplow, Three Mile Cross (Reading), Bicester, Amersham and Abingdon). Roads Policing in Thames Valley is part of the Joint Operations Unit which works together with Hampshire Constabulary's Roads Policing Unit.
Armed Response Unit
Thames Valley Police's Armed Response Unit is a 24/7 unit that responds to major and serious crimes where firearms may be involved. This unit is shared with Hampshire Police as part of the Joint Operations Unit.
The training facility is at Sulhamstead with a state of the art firearms range. The unit mostly uses the traffic bases within the force, mainly basing themselves out of Three Mile Cross (Reading), Milton Keynes, Bicester.
This unit can be identified by the red asterisk on the marked patrol cars they use, which includes the Volvo XC70 and BMW X5. The unit also uses unmarked vehicles.
Specialist Pro-Active Team
Thames Valley Police has recently centralized all 3 of its Pro-Active teams to be run as a 'shared service' from its headquarters. The team consists of 28 tactical police officers and are tasked through a bidding system which is used in order to gain their services.
The team works in a number of areas including Forced Method of Entry, Targeted intelligence policing and specialist surveillance of criminals both covertly and overtly.
The teams use various types of vehicles both visible and unmarked and work 24 hours a day across the force.
Air Operations Unit
The Air Support Unit was officially created in 1982 but the use of helicopters in Thames Valley goes back to 1963, when Oxford City Police experimented with a Brantley helicopter with a dog basket attached to the skids. Thames Valley Police rented helicopters for use on special occasions in the 1970s and '80s. The unit was founded in 1982 when part-time daylight flights were routinely contracted and eight Sergeants were transferred from Traffic and Operations to ASU. The unit rented a Eurocopter A350 by the day, planning to fly only 650 hours every year. In 1986 the unit was moved to RAF Abingdon.
In 1988 Thames Valley Police hired professional police observers for ASU. In the same year, the department became a full-time operational unit, only the third in the country at the time. Thames Valley Police bought a new helicopter in 1993.
In 1996 Thames Valley Police, Bedfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary combined funding and founded the Chiltern Air Support Unit, having received funding in 1995 to buy a second helicopter. The alliance is recognised to have started unofficially in 1992, when Thames Valley would sell flying time to its nearby forces. In 1999 and 2002 the two Eurocopter A350s were replaced by two Eurocopter EC135s, which are still in use today.
As of 2013 the management of Police Air-Support nationally has moved to NPASS (the National Police Air Support Service).
Search and Recovery Unit
Founded in 1956 as the Underwater Search Unit of Berkshire Constabulary and transferred to Thames Valley Police under a new name, the unit today is made up of one sergeant and seven constables and respond to around 350 operations each year.
The unit are involved in a variety of searching operations in river, underwater, underground, and cliff face conditions, searching for bodies, explosives, drugs, property, contraband and firearms and environments that can be affected by Chemical, Biological, Radioactive and Nuclear radiation.
The unit was disbanded April 2015 as a result of national police budget constraints.
Special Mounted Branch
The Thames Valley Mounted Branch based in Milton Keynes. The unit has fourteen police horses. The unit is responsible for preventing equine crime, assisting in searches of rural areas, and mainly maintaining public order at demonstrations and sporting events, including the four football grounds in Thames Valley.
Thames Valley Police has the largest non-Metropolitan Police Service operated Protection Group. This highly specialist department are responsible for guarding multiple fixed locations and protecting any visiting parties that require special attention. The officers on this department are some of the most highly trained and skilled within the force. They also supply an Armed Support Vehicle to support the static sites and deal with intense spontaneous incidents. The officers in the unit are required to pass stringent testing, they are Authorised Firearms Officers and also trained in advanced driving, advanced first aid, method of entry amongst many other highly specialist skills.
Public Order Department
Based in Heyford Park, formerly RAF Upper Heyford, in Oxfordshire. The POD is responsible for providing tactical support during spontaneous or pre-planned events that may result in public disorder. This includes sporting events such as football matches and Royal Ascot, music festivals such as Reading Festival, and lawful demonstrations.
Counter Terrorism Unit
Thames Valley Police's Counter Terrorist Unit is responsible for responding to any search related or explosive or terrorist incident, working with Protection Unit to guard anyone deemed to be at risk and with dog section to locate the explosive. The unit has four explosive ordnance disposal advisors.
The three Police Contact Centres were formed in 2003, following the closure of local control rooms, to support the newly formed control rooms in Abingdon and Milton Keynes. They are located at the force headquarters in Kidlington, and separate teams within the Abingdon and Milton Keynes control rooms. The Contact Centres handle all emergency, non-emergency and enquiry calls from the public.
There are also several Roads Policing bases at strategic locations around the force at Abingdon, Bicester, Taplow, Amersham, Milton Keynes, and Three Mile Cross.
Thames Valley Police officers wear the traditional custodian helmet in the comb style with a Brunswick star that reads 'Thames Valley Police' for foot patrol. This was dropped for practicality and cost reasons in 2009, but was reintroduced in 2018. Female officers wear a bowler hat, or a white bowler hat for traffic officers.
In 2009 Thames Valley Police proposed to be the first force to introduce the use of baseball caps as a primary mode of headgear. After trials were conducted the proposal was dropped as being 'a step too far from the professional image of the force'.
When on duty, officers wear a short sleeve black wicking T-shirt with 'Police' on the sleeves, and black uniform trousers with a cargo pocket on each leg. Thames Valley Police no longer use the traditional police jumper, having favoured a black soft-shell with police written on the chest and back. Thames Valley Police do not have Brunswick stars on their epaulettes, just the rank and shoulder number.
Formal dress comprises an open-necked tunic, with a white shirt/blouse and tie for both male and female officers. All officers wear peaked caps and their rank on their epaulettes. The No.1 uniform is accompanied by black boots or shoes and occasionally black gloves.
The operational uniform, until 2009, consisted of traditional white shirt and tie with custodian helmets for Constables and Sergeants, but this was dropped when it was deemed to be impractical and outdated, not withstanding the retention of this uniform by other forces, and the almost universal retention of the helmet. However, starting with the Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, TVP has started issuing the Custodian helmet again.
Thames Valley Police officers carry Airwave digital radios, TCH rigid handcuffs, CapTor2 incapacitant spray, the autolock 22" collapsible baton, leg restraints, a resuscitation mask and a basic first aid kit. The PCSOs do not carry autolock, handcuffs, leg restraints or incapacitant spray. Should they be required to, some Thames Valley officers can use body-mounted cameras. Police vehicles contain a variety of equipment, which can include Arnold batons, traffic cones, road signs, breathalyzers, stingers, speed guns, ANPR cameras and more.
Thames Valley Police use various vehicles depending on the role they are required for. The bulk of TVP vehicles are Vauxhall.
Vauxhall Astras (currently the Mark 6) are used as general purpose marked vehicles, they are used by both LPA response officers and members of LPA Neighbourhood Policing Group. Vauxhall Corsas are also used as patrol vehicles by PCSOs and may either be branded (bearing force insignia but no battenburg) or unmarked. Vauxhall Vivaro Vans are used by Neighbourhood policing teams, and also to transport violent prisoners. Vauxhall Movanos are used for riot/protest events and officer transport - these are slowly being replaced as of 2018 with Mercedes Sprinters
The Joint Operations Unit shared with Hampshire Police typically uses:
Dog Section - Marked and Unmarked Mitsubishi Outlanders and Ford Mondeo Estates
Armed Response Unit - Marked and Unmarked Volvo XC70s and BMW X5s
Thames Valley Police use the modern yellow and blue retro-reflective battenberg markings all over all operational vehicles, as well as the Thames Valley Police shield, and the contact phone number. The only exception of this is NPT cars, which only have markings on the back and front, and read 'Neighbourhood Policing Team' on the side.
Thames Valley Police has changed its name only once in its own history in 1971, from Thames Valley Constabulary to Thames Valley Police, a common change in most police forces that makes them more accessible.
Thames Valley Police's motto in Latin is Sit pax in valle tamesis meaning 'Let there be Peace in the Thames Valley', their slogan is 'Reducing crime, disorder and fear'. The Thames Valley Police shield is made up of features from the shields of its five founding constabularies including a blue river depicting the Thames river and five crowns palisado depicting the five founding forces. The stag is a symbol of the county of Berkshire, the ox a symbol of the county of Oxfordshire and the swan a symbol of the county of Buckinghamshire. Together they represent the ceremonial counties of the force area.
Strength and recruitment
Thames Valley Police employs 7,900 people and 908 volunteers. Of which 4250 are warranted Police Officers, over 500 are Police Community Support Officers and 3150 are civilian staff. Of the 908 volunteers, 500 are Police Support Volunteers and 733 are warranted Special Constables.
Thames Valley Police recruits people for voluntary roles. Their Police Support Volunteer scheme is one of the largest in the country, they now have 500 PSVs. Their Special Constabulary is also growing.
Training for new recruits in Thames Valley is held at Sulhamstead House in Sulhamstead, England. For Constables it consists of 13 weeks of residential training. Officers will achieve fit for independent patrol status once on area, usually 4 to 5 months after completing initial training. For PCSOs it consists of 18 weeks' training. For Special Constables it consists of between six and seven months of training at weekends, with mandatory online training in between. Special Constables will achieve fit for independent patrol status, usually within one year, but this is dependent on the number of tours of duty.
Once the training period is over, the new officers are posted in a local division for a tutorship and attachment phase lasting around 16 weeks.
Future of Thames Valley Police
In a report published by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in July 2011, the impact on the number of police officers and staff partly due to the reduction to Thames Valley Police's budget following the comprehensive spending review is as follows:
|Police officers||Police staff||PCSOs||Total|
|31 March 2010 (actual)||4,268||2,855||500||7,623|
|31 March 2015 (proposed)||4,034||2,541||453||7,028|
March 2010 figures exclude 166 officers and 145 staff who were paid through the Thames Valley payroll system but were seconded to national and regional duties and were externally funded.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary
A report from March 2010 by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary marked Thames Valley Police as 'fair' on local crime and policing, 'fair' on protection from serious harm and 'fair' on confidence and satisfaction.
In detail, Thames Valley was awarded only one 'excellent' for reducing road death and injury. They were 'fair' in all other categories except 'solving crime' and 'comparative satisfaction of BME community' and 'low/medium' for 'number of police officers and PCSOs'. They were praised for their 14% reduction in burglary after 'Operation Breaker' in July 2009.
Independent Police Complaints Commission
In the year 2008/9 the number of complaints recorded decreased by 2% but an increase of 8% above the previous years national average. The number of allegations recorded increased by 23% and 11% above the previous years national average. Thames Valley Police received 947 complaints and 1903 allegations, the national average being 338 per 1000 officers, TVP has 372, and TVP is just above 369 per 1000 officers, the average from a group of similar forces.
And of the 1903 allegations, 51% were investigated, 36% were locally resolved, 6% were withdrawn, 7% were dispensed and 0% were discontinued. Of the 51% allegations investigated 13% were substantiated and 87% were unsubstantiated.
Thames Valley Police investigates the greatest amount of allegations compared to its peer forces, its investigation rate is 15% higher than the national average. Its use of 'local resolution' has dropped 12% since 2005/6. Thames Valley has fewer allegations that are withdrawn, dispensed or discontinued.
Firearms training incident
On 30 May 2007 at Thames Valley Police headquarters in Kidlington whilst teaching a half-day course on firearms, PC David Micklethwaite demonstrated a Magnum .44 revolver which he had mistakenly loaded with live rounds. He pointed the gun at Keith Tilbury, a police phone operator attending the course, and fired the gun, almost killing Mr Tilbury.
The firearms instructor was reported to have failed the qualification at a Metropolitan Police training course, but TVP decided he would pass their less stringent test and was therefore suitable to teach the lesson, despite not having been provided with additional training since failing the Metropolitan Police course. The instructor was told to cover the lesson at short notice and accidentally picked up a live round from the force's armoury instead of dummy rounds. This mistake occurred due to both live and dummy rounds both being kept in the same Quality Street tin.
Mr Tilbury underwent immediate surgery to his bowel, kidney, lung and liver. In court, it was said he was unlikely to work again.
Thames Valley Police pleaded guilty to breaching regulations; they were fined £40,000 and £25,000 for legal costs. Constable Micklethwaite initially denied any wrongdoing, but later admitted to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act. PC Micklethwaite was not charged with misconduct because he retired from the Thames Valley Police before misconduct proceedings could be completed.
In 2007 Thames Valley Police admitted to being one of five UK forces that had employed Police Community Support Officers that were aged 16. This is not illegal as the minimum age limit of 18 applies to Constables, not PCSOs. However, concerns were raised that this represented "policing on the cheap" as candidates aged under 18 have a different wage scale and could cost £10,000 less per annum. It was also feared that the officers were being placed in unreasonable danger as PCSOs have been attacked and stabbed in the past.
Due to the large size of Thames Valley Police and that it is already made up of five police forces, it is unlikely it will be asked to merge with another force.
Thames Valley Police has to make savings of £52 million over the next four years. Chief Constable Thornton said that they would have to 'cut back on all non-essential activity'. 347 million pounds of savings have been identified including back office cuts and efficiency measures, as well as cutting officers numbers by 10%, meaning 800 officers.
In the media
The fictional Inspector Morse, the main character in 13 novels by Colin Dexter and 33 television episodes by ITV, works for Thames Valley Police, but in the spin-off series, Lewis, the force is referred to as Oxfordshire Police.
In 1982 the BBC broadcast a nine-part series by Roger Graef and Charles Stewart entitled Police, which showed a fly-on-the-wall account of Thames Valley's E Division based in Reading. This featured the rather demeaning treatment of a female victim of rape which was much discussed in the media at the time.
Between 2003 and 2008 a Sky1 programme, Road Wars, followed the Roads Policing Proactive and Problem Solving Team while they carried out their duties. The series followed a select group of officers on duty, who as a result became too well known causing the Chief Constable to ask Sky to move their programme to another force.
IT resource merger
Thames Valley Police and Hampshire Police authorities have agreed to share ICT support and infrastructure, with all IT workers now employees of Thames Valley Police. This will also include the Isle of Wight, a division of Hampshire Police. The partnership in Information Technology is the first of its kind in the country.
Thames Valley Police Museum
The Thames Valley Police Museum is located within Sulhamstead House, known locally as the 'White House', at Sulhamstead in the English county of Berkshire. The site was formerly the headquarters of the Berkshire Constabulary, and is now the training centre for the Thames Valley Police. The museum is open by appointment.
The museum includes displays on the history of Thames Valley Police and the five police forces that were amalgamated to form the force in 1968; the Buckinghamshire Constabulary, the Berkshire Constabulary, Oxford City Police, the Oxfordshire Constabulary and the Reading Borough Police. The museum's collections include items from the Great Train Robbery of 1963, uniforms, equipment, medals, photographs, scenes of crime evidence, and occurrence and charge books.
In 2006, the exhibition space of the museum was renovated. Since September 2017 the museum has been temporarily closed prior to relocation.
Thames Valley Police Museum webpage: https://web.archive.org/web/20170317131633/http://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/aboutus/aboutus-museum.htm
Officers killed in the line of duty
The Police Roll of Honour Trust lists and commemorates all British police officers killed in the line of duty. The Police Memorial Trust since its establishment in 1984 has erected over 38 memorials to some of those officers.
- PC Andrew Harper, 2019 (fatally injured whilst at the scene of a reported burglary)
- PC James Dixon, 2017 (fatally injured in a road traffic collision whilst on a training exercise)
- PC Gareth Browning, 2017 (run over by a suspect car in 2013, later died in hospital)
- PC Roger Brereton, 1987 (shot in the Hungerford massacre)
- WPC Joanne Mary Cochran, 1984 (fatally injured when her vehicle crashed during a police pursuit)
- DC Ian Coward QPM, 1971 (shot nine times attempting to arrest an armed suspect; posthumously awarded the Queen's Police Medal)
- Insp James Roy Bradley, 1967 (run over by a suspect car at a roadblock)
- DC Brian Moss, 1953 (fell through a roof while searching for suspects)
- PC William John Payne, 1949 (collapsed and died after pursuing a burglar)
- Insp Francis John East, 1944 (fatally injured when pushed off a vehicle by a suspect)
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