CHANGING the way police serve the people of Oxfordshire has had ‘teething problems’ but is necessary in order to cope amid increases in demand and funding cuts.

Francis Habgood, Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, told the Oxford Mail the force’s new operating model has started ‘bedding in’ amid concerns the roll out on June 1 had increased workloads and contributed to an increase in mental health issues among the ranks.

Mr Habgood said problems with shift patterns needed to be ironed out, but insisted a large increase in demand during the summer months had contributed to the new system being criticised. His comments came after Thames Valley Police Federation, the body which represents rank-and-file officers serving in the county, previously said ‘overstretched’ and ‘under-resourced’ officers were ‘struggling to keep their heads above water’.

The new model was brought in with the aim of getting the right resource to the right place at the right time amid increases in demand for service, the emergence of more complex and cyber crimes, and further budget cuts.

The new system is split into three main areas: neighbourhood, response and investigation. But following the model introduction, 76 per cent of 1,172 officers said they had suffered more stress.

The survey, by the federation, also revealed 85 per cent of officers thought the model had not seen any improvement in service, with two thirds of respondents saying they were more likely to leave the force.

Mr Habgood said any change in a big organisation was always going to have a "bit of a bumpy time". He added: “I absolutely accept that there are some work/life, balance issues. The most recent response we have had is that actually across the majority of the force, it is bedding in pretty well.

“Some of the processes we have put in place are working better – the technology, the laptops – that has certainly helped some of the response teams. There are still some teething issues we are working through.”

Pc Craig O’Leary, federation chairman, has said the model led to officers in investigation hubs working long hours. He said sickness levels had also increased.

He added: “I have very real concerns for our members, for their health, their wellbeing and their families.”

Mr Habgood said the problems caused by increasing demands on the force had been confused with the implementation of the operating model. He added: "Everything gets blamed on that. That happens with every change. That’s not a criticism, just a reality.

"When it was all hands to the pump – and we weren’t working to the smartest possible way in the early days – there was no doubt that some detectives in some parts of the force were probably doing things that were not best using their skills. But I think that has worked through now.”

He encouraged officers with mental health issues to speak out.

He added he was concerned with the rise in mental health issues among the ranks.

He said: “We have done a lot to encourage people to talk about mental health and I think that’s really positive.

“I have been in policing for 30 years and there were people suffering from mental health issues 30 years ago, but they didn’t talk about it and they didn’t come forward and it was seen as a sign of weakness. It is not now.”