A police force’s failing rate of emergency response times has been put down to the simple press of a button.

Chief Constable Martin Richards has claimed Sussex Police’s failure to reach response time targets was due to a “technical anomaly” in how officers recorded their arrival at the scene of a crime.

In June, figures revealed that force response times had dropped from 85% of emergency calls within 15 minutes to just 73% in the last three years.

Mr Richards said response times increased after a change from an automated system to a manual option, which required officers to press a button or radio-in their arrival.

When faced with responding to an incident, Mr Richards told Police Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne in a recorded monthly update that officers would sometimes forget to log their arrival, harming the force’s response times.

However, police union officials said the recent improvement in grade one response times was due to changes in policing numbers which was harming officers’ effectiveness and putting them in harm’s way.

Mr Richards said that the response times had now risen back above the force’s target of 80%.

He said: “We are certainly not complacent.

“It may be there has been a wonderful turnaround since we last met up and on the one hand that is great news but if they can go up that quickly, I don’t want it to come down that quickly.

“If you were entering a scene of a crime in action, on arrival I suspect your first concern would be the people in front of you, the car crash that has just happened, the assault that has just taken place or the burglar that might be leaving the premises.

“I would rather a police officer first on scene doing something in connection with the call for assistance than remembering to press the right button.”

Detective Sergeant Paul Sellings, chairman of Sussex Police Federation, said: “I know they have had difficulties with the system and they have been trying to address them.

“It’s quite an easy system and officers are quite capable of pressing a button.

“We put this change in response times down to the force putting one officer in patrol cars as opposed to two, that’s why they have improved.

“Officers can now get to incidents quickly but aren’t able to deal with the situation when they get there.”