SAVAGE cuts to the police service have left just nine officers covering the entire Island at night — putting the police and the public at risk.

Speaking exclusively to the County Press, one serving officer revealed the 'minimum safe standard' during the night shift was one sergeant and eight PCs.

And during the busy summer, he said even that minimum standard had not always been met. On several occasions, he said only seven officers were on duty.

Although shifts were extended on Friday and Saturday nights, providing more cover, the officer said it was simply not enough.

"We used to have two sergeants and 12 or 13 officers. If there are incidents in Yarmouth and Sandown, there aren't enough officers available. It's dangerous, you're putting them at risk.

"When you're such a small team, you try to protect each other. But there is a sense it's not safe. There were at least five officers off during the summer because they were assaulted."

Assistant chief constable for Hampshire and IW Police, Scott Chilton, agreed there were not enough staff but said the force had been hit particularly hard by funding cuts — Hampshire Constabulary has slashed its workforce by 23 per cent and its budget by a staggering £80 million since 2010 — and resources were allocated to where they were needed most, with emergencies and serious crime taking priority.

Although it was not ideal, he said the reality of policing meant bringing extra officers over from the mainland to plug staffing gaps, cancelling rest days and using more volunteer special constables.

"It's been the busiest summer I can remember in 26 years of policing, with almost 5,000 more 999 calls in July than in the same period two years ago," he said.

"For a long time we have been making the case we are the third lowest funded force in the country. We are underfunded by £48 million.

"This has an inevitable impact on how many officers are available. The warnings made in this respect are playing out in reality.

"Despite these pressures we will continue to do everything we can to target those who cause harm and misery to our communities.

"The number of assaults on police officers is absolutely unacceptable and the responsibility we have to keep officers safe is absolutely essential.

"We have doubled the number of tasers. We try not to send officers to serious and violent incidents alone, although sometimes that's necessary. They need to be better protected."

Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, and former Island police offer, John Apter, said the 'so-called' minimum safe standard was not safe enough.

"We're not giving the public the service they deserve, even though we want to. Officers are doing their best.

"I don't blame the bosses, it's purely down to funding. It's completely unacceptable.

"Officers are being put at risk of considerable harm because there aren't enough of them to do their job properly.

"We are trying to provide the best possible training, access to tasers and spit guards, but what we need is boots on the ground."

ACC Chilton said: "Our officers are passionate about what they do. Their selfless commitment to public service is something we see every single day.

"I think the public support the police, even though they are sometimes disappointed they don't get the speedy response they would like."

The officer who spoke to the County Press revealed police did not usually attend incidents including theft, criminal damage, vehicle crime and even minor assaults. Instead, victims were told to call 101. He said even burglary victims had to wait six or seven hours for an officer.

"The back office cuts mean more time spent on admin and less on the frontline. Plus, there are far too many managers," he said.

"Morale is the lowest I've known it. You want to do what's best for the public and it's really frustrating when you can't. You want to get back to core policing, to catching criminals and locking them up, and you can't.

"The force is trying to show the government can cope. It can't cope. It should say, 'you're not giving us enough to do our job properly.'"