Essex Police has announced cuts to its dog-handling and marine teams, as part of a programme to deliver £36m worth of savings.

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In a statement, the force’s chief constable Stephen Kavanagh said, in the future, the dog section will consist of 25 police constables working from a centralised hub at Sandon and that the number of dogs will be reduced from 52 to 40.

The handlers of dogs that are being retired will be given the opportunity to keep them as pets, or suitable homes will be found for those who cannot stay with their handlers. No dogs will be put down as a result of the changes.

Mr Kavanagh also announced that the Marine Unit will be closed as a distinct team subject to consultation. A number of marine officers will be transferred to Special Branch but, where necessary, continue to provide a response to marine and inland water-search incidents.

PCSOs currently working at Burnham on the Marine Unit will be redeployed into local Neighbourhood Policing teams, where their experience will be used to support local communities.

Essex Police currently has one large vessel - the Essex Police launch Alert IV, three smaller rigid-hulled inflatable boats and two jet-skis. The force is evaluating which equipment to retain and will seek to sell anything no longer required.

Although coastal ‘search and rescue’ remains the primary responsibility of the HM Coastguard, Mr Kavanagh said Essex Police will retain the ability to support partners where needed and that the Police National Air Service will also provide the capability to respond to coastal incidents.

The cuts are part of the force’s Evolve Programme, aimed at delivering “cost effective” policing, and the restructuring of these two units is expected to bring savings of £750,000 per year

Mr Kavanagh added:” While this will be challenging with the force needing to deliver savings in the region of £36m over the next three financial years, it also offers us some exciting opportunities to re-think the way we do business.

“We need to be realistic about the services we can continue to deliver in the current economic climate – and focussing on our priorities for local communities and minimising threat, harm and risk means that we have had to re-evaluate some of our more specialist areas of operations

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