THE prospect of police force mergers should not fill either police officers, or the communities they serve, with dread.

Amalgamations are being actively discussed and, although decisions have yet to be made, there is a clear realisation at the highest levels that the savings some local authorities are seeking to make by sharing certain functions can be repeated within the police service.

This is just one of the initiatives being looked at as the new Government endeavours to push through its draconian cuts while not cutting substantial numbers of the police officers on the beat. It is clear that something has to give, and that is management and attendant bureaucracy.

What has to be maintained is the neighbourhood policing that has been extended to cover every community in recent years. It may not be perfect, but most places now know who their local sergeant and inspector is. Crime is lower now than it has been and neighbourhood policing must take some of the credit for that.

Locally accountable and accessible police officers are what people want. What emblem they wear on their helmets is neither here nor there.