Avon and Somerset Police

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Avon and Somerset Police
Avon and Somerset Constabulary Logo, 2017.png
MottoWorking together to make the communities of Avon and Somerset feel safe and be safe
Agency overview
Formed1 April 1974
Preceding agencies
Annual budget£276.1 million (2016–17)[2]
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionAvon and Somerset, England
England Police Forces (Avon and Somerset).svg
Map of police area
Size4,800 km2 (1,855 mi2)
Population1.59 million+
Legal jurisdictionEngland & Wales
Constituting instrument
General nature
Operational structure
Overviewed byHer Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Independent Office for Police Conduct formerly Independent Police Complaints Commission
HeadquartersValley Road, Portishead, Bristol, BS20 8QJ
Constables3,102 (of which 364 are Special Constables)[1]
Police and Crime Commissioner responsible
Agency executives
www.avonandsomerset.police.uk Edit this at Wikidata

Avon and Somerset Police is the territorial police force responsible for law enforcement in the county of Somerset and in four districts that used to be in the defunct county of Avon: Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

As of September 2017 the force had a workforce of 2,630 police officers, 2,275 police staff, 315 police community support officers and 340 special constables.[4] The constabulary provides service for over 1.6 million people and, in terms of geographic area of responsibility, is the 11th largest in England and Wales.


Somerset Constabulary Badge on display at King John's Hunting Lodge, Axbridge

The police area covered by Avon & Somerset Police today can trace its policing heritage back to the very start of the modern policing system. The Municipal Corporations Act 1835 created municipal boroughs across England and Wales, each with the power to create a borough police force. Prior to this time 'policing' was largely unrecognisable from today's system with watchmen and parish constables providing variable levels of law enforcement, if any, driven largely by magistrates. As a result of the Act the following borough police forces were created within the current Avon and Somerset Constabulary police area: Bath City Police (1836), Bristol Constabulary (1836), Bridgwater Borough Police (1836), Wells City Police (1836), Glastonbury Borough Police, Chard Borough Police (1839), and Yeovil Borough Police (1854).[5]

However, outside of the new boroughs there was no modern police. Therefore, the government introduced the County Police Act 1839 which permitted county authorities to set up county forces to police areas outside of the boroughs. Following these Acts, Gloucestershire Constabulary was created in 1839 which covered what is now the north part of the current police area of Avon & Somerset Constabulary (South Gloucestershire). There was still some opposition to the new model of policing however, and rural Somerset had no police force until 1856.[6] The County and Borough Police Act 1856 mandated that county authorities must set up a constabulary.[7] Somerset Constabulary commenced policing the county in 1856 with Wells City Police and Glastonbury Borough Police merging into the new county force almost immediately, with Yeovil Borough Police following a year later.[8]

Family tree of Avon and Somerset Constabulary since 1836

Later in the 19th century the Local Government Act 1888 required that all boroughs with populations of less than 10,000 amalgamate their police force with the adjoining county constabulary.[9] This signalled the end of Chard Borough Police who merged into Somerset Constabulary on 1 April 1888.[5] In 1940, Bridgwater Borough Police voluntarily became part of Somerset constabulary, the small force having a 101-year history, with the 20 officers of the borough police becoming Somerset County officers upon merger.[8]

During the 20th century the number of individual police forces across the United Kingdom was reduced across the country on grounds of efficiency. The Police Act 1964 gave the Home Secretary the power to enforce amalgamations but this was not required when Somerset Constabulary and Bath City Police voluntarily agreed to merge forming the Somerset and Bath Constabulary on 1 January 1967.[10] This resulted in 3 police forces left covering the geographic area which is now the responsibility of Avon & Somerset Constabulary; these being Somerset and Bath Constabulary, Bristol Constabulary and Gloucestershire Constabulary covering the extreme north. This situation ended 7 years later on 1 April 1974 following the implementation the Local Government Act 1972 which created Avon and Somerset Constabulary following the amalgamation of Somerset and Bath Constabulary with Bristol Constabulary and the southern part of Gloucestershire Constabulary.[5]

Chief constables[edit]

Chief constable Term started Term ended
Kenneth Steele[a] 1 April 1974 31 August 1979
Brian Weigh 1 September 1979 1983
F.R. Broome 1983 1989
David J. Shattock 1989 1998
Stephen Pilkington February 1998 December 2004
Colin Port 27 January 2005 December 2012
Rob Beckley QPM (acting for 4 months) December 2012 March 2013
Nick Gargan 4 March 2013 13 May 2014 (suspended)
16 October 2015 (resigned)
John Long QPM (acting) 13 May 2014 31 August 2015
Gareth Morgan (acting for 4 months) 1 September 2015 31 January 2016
Andy Marsh QPM 1 February 2016 incumbent
  1. ^ First Chief Constable of Avon & Somerset Constabulary upon its formation. Had been chief constable of one of the preceding forces – Somerset and Bath Constabulary from 1967, and prior to that had been Chief Constable of Somerset Constabulary from 1955, prior to its merger with Bath City Police.

Colin Port served as the chief constable since January 2005, however after the police and crime commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens announced on 22 November 2012 that she would invite applications for the role rather than extending his contract, Port decided not to re-apply for the position and retired in March 2013.[11] In January 2013, Port took the PCC to court to seek an injunction to block the interviews of candidates for the post of chief constable, however the case did not succeed.[12]

Nick Gargan was appointed as the next chief constable in March 2013, however, just over a year later in mid-May 2014, Gargan was suspended by the police and crime commissioner following allegations of 'inappropriate behaviour towards female officers and staff'. The enquiry into the allegations was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Gargan is reported by the commissioner to have denied the allegations.[13]

During the first part of Gargan's suspension, the force was run by Deputy Chief Constable, John Long. Long stood down as acting chief constable at the end of August 2015, where he was replaced by Gareth Morgan who was serving as deputy chief constable for Long.[14] Gargan resigned from the position in October 2015.[15]

Morgan continued serving as acting chief constable after Gargan's resignation until the police and crime commissioner appointed Andy Marsh, the former Chief Constable of the Hampshire Constabulary, as the new chief constable in February 2016.[16]


The constabulary is overseen by the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, a new elected position which replaced the Avon and Somerset Police Authority in November 2012. The police and crime commissioner is scrutinised by the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Panel, consisting of elected councillors from the police area. The first police and crime commissioner, who was elected on 15 November 2012 and took office on 21 November 2012, is Sue Mountstevens.[17] She had previously been a magistrate and a member of the police authority,[18] and had stood for election as an independent.

Organisation and senior management[edit]

The headquarters of the force is currently Portishead in North Somerset, close to the B3124, it was chosen as the site for the new HQ when the Bristol Constabulary's Bridewell Headquarters was deemed to be too small to continue serving as the Force's HQ. The Portishead complex cost £31 million to construct and was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1995.[19]

In 2014 the force moved into three new police and custody centres in Bridgwater, Patchway and Keynsham. At that time they announced that a third of its other premises will be closed by 2019.[20]

In 2017, Avon and Somerset moved away from geographical based policing model and to a directorate based one. Currently the directorates are:

  • Response (Patrol, Communications and Detainee Investigations)
  • Investigations and Operations Support (including Complex investigations, Criminal Justice and Intelligence)
  • Neighbourhood and Partnerships (including Road Safety and Integrated Offender Management)
  • Tri-Force Collaborations with Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Police (including Road Traffic Policing, Dogs and Firearms) {Due to end in April 2019}
  • Southwest regional Collaborations (Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU), Counter terrorism unit, Forensics)[21]

Police stations as of December 2018 (grouped by local authority area)[edit]

South Gloucestershire[edit]

Bath and North East Somerset[edit]

Keynsham Police Centre


Former Bristol central police station

North Somerset[edit]

East Somerset[edit]

Yeovil Police Station

West Somerset[edit]

Basic Command Unit structure[edit]

Each Basic Command Unit (BCU) has several specialist teams, namely:

  • Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPTs), each with local beat managers and PCSOs. The NPTs concentrate on preventing and detecting local crime and targeting offenders, building contacts in the local community, resolving problems by working with local organisations and individuals and being visible and accessible.
  • Targeted Patrol Teams responding to emergency calls.
  • Traffic units patrol the roads and target and pursue people committing traffic offences, this includes Traffic PCSO's.
  • Criminal Investigation Departments (CID) detect serious crime
    • Forensic Services investigate crime scenes for forensic evidence that may correspond with many of the Home Office databases.
  • Pro-active policing units target persistent criminals and focus on specific operations.
  • Dog Units are officers who patrol with dogs and respond to incidents where a police dog is required.

Headquarters-based teams[edit]

To support the BCUs, several centralised teams operate from the Portishead headquarters:


National Police Air Service[edit]

The National Police Air Service is responsible for providing air support to all the police forces of England and Wales. The service has a base within the force area at Filton Aerodrome, however this helicopter is not devoted to servicing Avon & Somerset Police but will assist any force within flying distance.

West Counties EC135 Helicopter, 2008

Road Policing Unit[edit]

In 2011 the RPU had 55 cars and 28 motorcycles.[23] The unit has two bases: Almondsbury and Express Park, Bridgwater.

Support Group Unit[edit]

Avon and Somerset Police has a Support Group that specialise in specific needs of investigations or missions, such as police divers, football match management and explosive searching.[24] The officers chosen for Support Group duties are physically elite and have passed extensive tests.

Mounted Division Unit[edit]

Mounted Police in Wells High Street

Although considered a luxury in other forces, Avon and Somerset Police have a division of mounted police due to the many events that attract large crowds in the area such as Badminton Horse Trials, Glastonbury Festival and Bristol City Football Club. The unit consists of 12 bred bay geldings. The unit is occasionally loaned to neighbouring forces as Avon and Somerset are the only West Country police force with a mounted division.[25]

Former tri-force collaboration[edit]

From 2013 to 2019, specialist teams – roads, firearms and police dogs – operated in collaboration with the Gloucestershire and Wiltshire forces.[26]



Police officers on foot patrol wear the traditional custodian helmet, in the rose style, with a Brunswick star that reads 'Avon and Somerset Constabulary'. A peaked cap is worn on mobile patrol in vehicles, and a white peaked cap for traffic officers. Female officers have the additional option of a bowler hat, or a white bowler hat for traffic officers.


Special Constables and regular officers of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary at the 125th anniversary of the Special Constabulary in Taunton.

When on duty, officers wear the black wicking shirt, covered with a black stab vest reading 'Police' on the front and back. Avon and Somerset no longer use the traditional NATO police jumper, having favoured the black fleece with 'Police' written on the chest and back. Avon and Somerset officers do not have Brunswick stars on their epaulettes, just the rank and/or collar number. Female officers do not wear the black and white chequered cravat.

Formal dress comprises an open-necked tunic, white shirt/blouse and tie. Constables and Sergeants wear custodian helmets and collar numbers on their epaulettes, while higher-ranked officers wear peaked caps, name badges and their rank on their epaulettes. The No.1 uniform is accompanied by black boots or shoes and occasionally black gloves, or brown gloves for the rank of Inspector and above.


Avon and Somerset Constabulary use a variety of standard UK police equipment including TETRA digital radios, rigid handcuffs, PAVA spray and the ASP collapsible baton. Some officers also routinely carry the TASER Stun device designed to electrically shock a subject making them fall to the ground and to be subdued.[citation needed]

During late 2009 Avon and Somerset Constabulary introduced mobile data terminals and Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) to some of its operational vehicles and front line officers. This is steadily being rolled out across the force. Most front line officers now have their own PDA designed to assist the officer in his/her day to day tasks and allows them to spend more time out of the station.


A Ford Focus police vehicle belonging to the force, sporting livery and LED lights.

The Avon and Somerset Constabulary uses the modern blue and yellow retro-reflective square Battenburg markings on all of its operational vehicles. This style of livery was introduced in 2005, when the traditional 'jam sandwich' style police markings were removed in favour of the new livery, thought to aid officers responding to emergency calls by allowing the public to quickly and clearly identify the vehicle as belonging to the police.[27] The square livery also aids in the visibility of the force, which is perceived to enhance public confidence. Marked vehicles also show the force's Internet address on the rear and the word 'POLICE' across the bonnet. However, the force's crest is no longer used on most vehicles.

Strength and recruitment[edit]

Avon and Somerset Constabulary employs 5,939 people and 324 police volunteers within the Special Constabulary. As of March 2017, 3,102 are Police Officers, 334 are Police Community Support Officers and 2,503 are support staff.[1]

A report has described Avon and Somerset Constabulary as at 'tipping point' due to financial pressure and increasing work load. The region faces complex threats from Islamism, from right-wing extremists trying to incite anti Muslim hatred and from left-wing extremists. The report states, "We now face a tipping point. We cannot sustain further funding cuts without extremely serious consequences." There is concern how far the force can protect its population from terrorism. The report expresses concern over management of offenders and over increasing demands due to people with mental health problems. By May 2017, 1,926 registered sexual offenders were in the region. The constabulary manages over 11,000 offenders. Nearly 2,000 "high risk" people, including domestic abusers, violent offenders, sexual offenders, robbers and burglars are not under formal management. Andy Marsh, Chief Constable said, "Our continuing ability to safeguard communities, protect the vulnerable, and manage major incidents of this kind is being severely tested. It's simply not sustainable. There are serious choices to be made."[28]


British Crime Survey[edit]

Avon and Somerset are making varied progress in fighting crime and maintaining public support. Overall 124,89 crimes were recorded in Avon and Somerset during 2009/10. Nationally recorded crime fell by 9%. This included a 22% fall in car crime, a 19% fall in fraud, a 13% fall for robbery and criminal damage. Assault and sex crimes rose by 1% and 'Other Crimes' including public order offences, dangerous driving, possession of firearms, going equipped for stealing, and perverting the course of justice rose by 26%.[citation needed]

In perceptions of police and crime, 65.2% of residents in Avon and Somerset believe that Avon and Somerset Constabulary is dealing with 'anti-social behaviour and crime that matters' in their area.[29]

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary[edit]

For the year of 2009/10 Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary rated Avon and Somerset Constabulary as 'Fair' all categories including 'Local Crime', 'Protection from harm' and 'Satisfaction and Confidence'. It was particularly 'Good' in 'Reducing road death and injury' and particularly 'Poor' in 'Comparative satisfaction of BME [black and minority ethnic] community'. In value for money the force received 'Medium/High' status.[30]

Independent Police Complaints Commission[edit]

For the year of 2007/8 the Independent Police Complaints Commission received 800 complaint cases, an increase of 18& from 2006/7, compared to a 0% increase nationally. From which 1231 allegations were made, including 'Other neglect or failure in duty' and 'Incivility, Impoliteness and Intolerance' both 6% and 3% respectively lower than the national average. Avon and Somerset Constabulary was second lowest in its seven strong peer group.

Of the 1231 allegations made, 40% were investigated, 8% higher than the national average, 41% were resolved locally and 19% were withdrawn, dispensed with or discontinued. Of the 40% investigated, 12% were substantiated and 88% were unsubstantiated.

The force has been strongly criticised over the death of James Herbert aged 25. Herbert who had mental health issues was restrained and left wearing a winter coat alone in a hot police van during a 45-minute drive sometimes at 60 mph on a hot summer evening. At the police station Herbert was unresponsive and was put naked into a police cell instead of being taken to hospital. Herbert developed cardiac arrest. Deborah Coles of Inquest said, "James was detained by the police for his safety. He should have been treated as a patient in need of medical care. Instead, he suffered a traumatic but entirely preventable death involving prolonged and brutal restraint." The police did not get mental health support for Herbert.[31] It is claimed Avon and Somerset police have improved their procedures since the Herbert incident but other police forces continue with previous practise.[32]

Proposed merger[edit]

In 2006 the Home Office announced plans to reduce the number of police forces in the UK from 42 to 24 in an attempt to save money. The plans were abandoned later that year due to lack of funding for the mergers, however the idea has resurfaced many times.

The proposed idea would see Avon and Somerset Constabulary merge with Gloucestershire Constabulary, Devon and Cornwall Police, Wiltshire Police and Dorset Police to form a 'super police force'.

The plans have been publicly criticised by all the involved forces, stating that it would lead to poor quality service and a reduction in local policing.[33]

In February 2010 plans for a merger of the four South West police forces: Avon and Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Devon and Cornwall were re-evaluated by the Home Office in a bid to reduce spending.[33] All of the forces except Avon and Somerset were against an amalgamation. Following this Avon and Somerset Constabulary began purchasing uniform and equipment without the force crest. Instead identifying marks just read 'Police' without a force crest or reference to Avon and Somerset, the proposed merger to create a South Western Police Force has still not been ruled out as the Home Office and Central Government look to save funding.


Race and sex discrimination in recruitment[edit]

In 2006, the force admitted it had contravened the Sex Discrimination Act and Race Relations Act when it deselected 186 white male candidates from its recruitment process solely because of their sex and race. Ralph Welsman, one of those discriminated against, sued the constabulary for their breach of employment laws and he received compensation in an out of court settlement. The policy was condemned by both the Police Federation and Commission for Racial Equality and it was abandoned.[34][35] The same illegal policy was also used by Gloucestershire Constabulary.[36]

Taser usage[edit]

In August 2015, officers from the Avon and Somerset force Tasered a disabled man, who had the mental age of a seven year old. The man was charged with assaulting an officer but the case collapsed after defence lawyers provided CCTV of the alleged assault to prosecutors. The police watchdog said that the actions of the officer who failed to gather the CCTV evidence "fell below the standard expected", but concluded there was no wrongdoing. Campaigners and local politicians argued that the case represented “another incident of excessive and unnecessary” use of the weapon in Bristol.[37] In response to the case, the force appointed a "dedicated lead for autism" and committed to ensuring that all new officers and civilian investigators undergo training covering "autism spectrum conditions and other non-visible disabilities".[38]

In January 2017 the force referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission following an incident when officers used a Taser on a black community activist who was trying to enter his own home. They mistook him for a wanted person. The incident was captured on video by a member of the public and by the officers' own body cameras.[39][40]

Officers killed in the line of duty[edit]

The Police Memorial Trust lists and commemorates all British police officers killed in the line of duty, and since its establishment in 1984 has erected over 38 memorials to some of those officers. Officers killed include:[41]

  • Supt William Balkwill (Somerset Constabulary), 1900: Fatally injured while restraining a violent prisoner.
  • DC Reginald Charles Grady (Bristol Constabulary), 1945: Collapsed and died during a violent arrest.
  • PC David George Petch: Died 24 October 1981, aged 31, Killed when his traffic patrol car crashed following a speeding car.
  • PC Peter Leonard Deans and PC Jonathan Michael Stapley, 1984: During a car chase their vehicle crashed and Deans and Stapley were fatally injured.
  • WPC Deborah Leat, 1986: During a car chase Leat's vehicle crashed and she was fatally injured.
  • PC Stephen Jones, 1999: Died after being hit by a stolen vehicle he was attempting to stop.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Police Headcount Gender Breakdown". Avon and Somerset Constabulary. Archived from the original on 30 July 2017. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  2. ^ "2016/2017 Chief Constable's Statement of Accounts" (PDF). Avon and Somerset Constabulary. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  3. ^ "New police chief constable appointed". Bristol 24/7. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  4. ^ "Police workforce, England and Wales: 30 September 2017". GOV.UK. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Clark, Peter (2015). Police Reference:England and Wales. pp. 106, 247, 301, 477, 1341, 1286, 229. ISBN 978-0-9858978-0-2.
  6. ^ Commons, Great Britain Parliament House of (1852). Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons. Ordered to be printed.
  7. ^ Britain, Great (1856). The statutes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. police.
  8. ^ a b "A History of the Somersetshire Constabulary" (PDF). Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Local Government Act 1888". www.legislation.gov.uk. Expert Participation. Retrieved 27 November 2017.CS1 maint: others (link)
  10. ^ "POLICE FORCES, ENGLAND AND WALES (ORGANISATION) (Hansard, 18 May 1966)". hansard.millbanksystems.com. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  11. ^ "Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Colin Port to step down". BBC News. 22 November 2012. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  12. ^ "Avon and Somerset Police boss Colin Port loses court action". BBC News. 8 January 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  13. ^ "Police chief suspended over 'inappropriate behaviour towards female officers'". The Times. 13 May 2014. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  14. ^ "Avon and Somerset Police appoints second temporary chief". BBC News. 2 September 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  15. ^ "Nick Gargan: Avon and Somerset chief constable quits job". BBC News. 16 October 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  16. ^ "New police chief constable appointed". Bristol 24/7. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  17. ^ "Avon and Somerset PCC election: Sue Mountstevens wins". BBC. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  18. ^ "Your PCC". Police and Crime Commissioner for the Avon and Somerset Police Area. 16 November 2012. Archived from the original on 17 December 2012.
  19. ^ History of the A&S Force from their site Archived 3 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine retrieved on 15 March 2007
  20. ^ "Avon & Somerset Police stations to close". ITV News. 28 April 2014. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  21. ^ https://www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/media/31021771/as-force-management-statement.pdf
  22. ^ "Bath police station expansion plan approved". BBC News: Somerset. 7 March 2019. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  23. ^ "Road Policing Unit" (PDF). Avon and Somerset Constabulary. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
  24. ^ Avon and Somerset Constabulary – Support Group Archived 18 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Avon and Somerset Constabulary – Mounted Section Archived 18 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ "Police dogs, firearms and road officers comes back in house after Tri Force disbanded". Wiltshire Times. 10 June 2019. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  27. ^ "Impact Assessment of The Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations amendment covering reflective markings on emergency vehicles" (PDF). Department of Transport. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 October 2009. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  28. ^ Police cuts: force says it would struggle to respond to terror attack 19 September 2017. The Guardian
  29. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 July 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  30. ^ "Reeport Card: Avon and Somerset". National Archives. Archived from the original on 23 November 2010. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
  31. ^ James Herbert death: 'Avoid police restraint' for mentally ill people 21 September 2017. BBC News
  32. ^ IPCC: police had series of chances to help man who died after arrest The Guardian 21 September 2017
  33. ^ a b "Concerns over police merger plans". Salisbury Journal. 19 February 2010.
  34. ^ "Law - The Times". timesonline.co.uk. Archived from the original on 12 June 2011.
  35. ^ "Pay out to would-be policeman". BBC News. 14 March 2006.
  36. ^ https://www.standard.co.uk/news/police-force-admits-discriminating-against-white-recruits-7244067.html
  37. ^ "Questions raised after police tasered autistic man". Bristol 24/7. 1 February 2018. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  38. ^ "Police Tasered man with mental age of 7". BBC News. 31 January 2018. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  39. ^ "Police Taser their own race relations adviser in Bristol". The Guardian. 20 January 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  40. ^ "Race group Taser officer investigated". BBC News. 22 February 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  41. ^ Police Roll of Honour Trust. "Police Roll of Honour Trust". policememorial.org.uk.

External links[edit]