I’ve already been at work for 10 hours and should have been home by now, but I am only five miles away from an emergency call; the next available police officer is 30 miles away. It’s a dilemma that has long since taught my family that I’ll be home “when I’m home”.
If you had asked me 10 years ago, I would have said then that there were not enough police officers to deal with all the demands placed upon the service: the emergency calls, routine crime investigation, missing or suicidal people. Today, there are fewer officers in my force than at any time during my 20 years in the police. Since 2010, the number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen by 19,668. Frankly, there weren’t enough of us in 2010 and you cannot cut almost 20,000 officers and 5,875 police community support officers and expect the same level of service.
I have heard the government proclaim that the proportion of frontline officers has increased. This is very carefully chosen language, worthy of that fictional civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby himself. Take this example: if you had five red sweets and five yellow sweets, and took away four yellow and two red, you would have only four sweets left, but the proportion of red sweets would have increased.
I can absolutely confirm the number of uniformed frontline officers has decreased significantly. In my town, there were 18 beat officers 10 years ago. There are now four. It is neighbourhood policing that has taken the hit but detectives and response team are under equally unrelenting pressure and most support teams have gone. The reduction of officers and staff in non-frontline roles has forced frontline cops back into the office to pick up the paperwork that used to be done for them.
Six years ago, police performance meant cutting crime and detecting offences. Performance for police leaders now means getting through the month with the resources they have, prioritising what to investigate and what to not, trying to cut…