Damage Done

Another week.

Another round of depressing headlines about Chief Constables stating that their Forces no longer have the resources they need to do all that is being asked and expected of them.

Another round of deeply disturbing headlines about police officers being attacked in the street. The accompanying film footage is too much for me to watch.

I have never known times remotely like these – and it set me thinking about all that has disappeared from policing in the last eight years. 

The list is staggering:

I. The loss of 44,000 police officers and staff in England & Wales.

Say that number out loud a couple of times and let it sink in.

II. The loss of neighbourhood policing.

  • London has more 600 local council wards. In 2010, each of those had its own dedicated Safer Neighbourhoods Team.
  • That meant a minimum of 1 Sergeant, 2 PCs and 3 PCSOs for every single ward.
  • Safer Neighbourhoods Teams don’t exist in London any more.
  • In many other parts of the country, local Neighbourhood Policing Teams have all but vanished – and with them, critical relationships and connections with local communities and the capacity for long term problem solving.

III. The loss of more than 600 police stations.

  • According to the Times newspaper, some Forces have closed more than half their stations. Gloucestershire Police have closed 21 out of 28.
  • The loss of these buildings means the loss of the tangible, local policing presence that is so important to so many people.

IV. The loss of specialist frontline policing resources – so critical in the fight against crime. Obvious examples include:

  • Dogs
  • Horses
  • Helicopters

V. The loss of frontline proactive policing capability – as experienced officers are moved away from patrol teams and local crime squads, into Counter-Terrorism and specialist investigatory roles.

VI. The loss of confidence amongst some frontline officers in the legitimate (and absolutely essential) use of their Stop & Search Powers.

  • Stop & Search has been politicised to the most extraordinary degree.
  • In 2014, to loud fanfare, Theresa May – then the Home Secretary – announced that she was setting out to reform Stop & Search. The direct result was a huge reduction in the police use of their various powers.
  • In September 2015, Sadiq Khan was seeking to become the Mayor of London. Out on the campaign trail, he suggested that, if elected, he would “do everything in (his) power to cut Stop & Search”.
  • Nobody is calling for less of it now.

VII. The loss of significant operational independence from political control – not least through the introduction of elected Police & Crime Commissioners. 

VIII. The loss of significant policing experience – as officers with years of exemplary service behind them leave early, either as a consequence of poor health or because they are looking for a job that is less likely to break them.

IX. The loss of hard-won reductions in serious and violent crime

X. The loss of respect – in some quarters at least – for police officers and the role that they perform in society:

  • The political rhetoric about policing in the last eight years has, on occasions, been astonishingly hostile.
  • The police have been accused of being racist.
  • They have been accused of being corrupt.
  • They have been accused of being incompetent.
  • They have been accused of being resistant to change.
  • They have been accused of crying wolf.
  • This rhetoric has been picked up and reapplied with venom in certain sections of the media – with the kind of one-eyed reporting that reinforces the view that the police are not respected by those in positions of power and authority.
  • And there is an absolute connection between the lack of respect shown by politicians and the press – and the lack of respect being shown on the street.

 

***

There are serious long-term consequences to the short-term cuts of the last eight years. The following facts bear repeating:

  • Crime is rising – certainly crime of the most serious kinds.
  • Demand is rising – not least as a consequence of the gaping holes that have appeared in the delivery of other critical front-line public services.
  • Complexity is rising – as crime crosses both geographic borders and digital frontiers.
  • Risk is rising – with more officers being more seriously assaulted than I can ever remember before. And each one of them remains an explicit terrorist target.

Austerity was a conscious, deliberate political choice. And so were its consequences. There is now an overwhelmingly urgent need for reinvestment in frontline policing. And, even then, it may take a generation to repair the damage done.

 

Version 2

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12 thoughts on “Damage Done

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  1. We live in times of civil unrest.not a good sign.we may be on the way to human exfinction.this is happening globally that is in real time. But never give up on hope.that we have to have faigh in these times of crises.

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  2. No one in the media seems to be willing to hold PMTM and the Conservative party to account. I speak as a life long conservative voter and I will never vote for them again, the trouble is I cannot think of any viable alternatives either. PMTM will respond to questions with her drop down menu response and will never give a straight answer. I am glad to see that some Chief Officers are prepared to call out falsehoods where they see them. The problem we have is that we have a government that includes a lot of opinion column writers. These people don’t have to deal with messy complexity, they shout from the sidelines like the fat lads watching football in the pub.
    As an aside there is a very febrile atmosphere in the country at the moment. My daughter is a teacher and has moved from a problematic outer London suburb to the leafy shires, as she says most of the children are generally well behaved but there is a growing (and troublesome) minority who can see no point in education and see no future for themselves.
    Retired

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    1. The choice to pursue austerity was a UK one, not mirrored to anything like the degree or the length of time in other wealthy countries. It was the international financial crash that was seized on by Cameron & Osborne, firstly to assign responsibility to Labour, then having wormed their way into office using it as an excuse to slash public spending on the most vulnerable so they could give hand outs to their rich mates. Senior police officers are able to place the blame where truly lies.

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    2. Austerity was a political choice. A choice made by a right wing government using Austerity as a fig leaf for an ideology that advocated the dismantling of public services in order to fulfil the neo-con mantra of ‘small government’. Over the past 10 years we have witnessed a scorched earth policy perpetrated on public services that most, and particularly the poorer, weaker and more needy members of our society, depend upon. As John’s analysis demonstrates, this attack on UK Policing and the boys and girls actually trying to police our society has been vicious and unrelenting. Moreover, despite May’s exhortation to the masses that Austerity is now over, the reality is different. Policing and many of our public services face further crippling cuts already in the pipeline – likely to made even worse than expected by the unpredictable and likely adverse financial impact on Britain due to an incredibly mismanaged Brexit. Maybe Craig and others like him should scratch the surface of the misinformation drip fed to them by the Daily Mail and the like, before simply parroting such simplistic but erroneous headlines as facts…

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  3. This article summarises perfectly all that has been going on within the world of policing over the past eight years. What strikes me most however is the speed with which things have degenerated over the past couple of those years. If the slide is not ‘arrested’ soon, then policing will never recover in my view. That is the reason why ROWC (Retired Officers Who Care) a Sussex based group of retired police officers generated a petition calling for a Royal Commission on Policing. This has attracted nearly 270,000 signatures and is being promoted in Parliament by the Lib Dem MP for Eastbourne Stephen Lloyd. Everyone can help by signing the petition on change.org and also by writing to their own MP urging them to support Stephen Lloyd’s Early Day Motion calling for a Royal Commission on Policing #supportfuturepolicing!

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  4. John. I have policed in three forces. One in Scotland and a county and London force. I now live abroad where the crime is 5% of London in a city the size of Edinburgh. All the cops are armed. Violent crime is non existent. I recently returned to London and bear in mind i have lived in Leeds, Glasgow, and some good and rough parts of London and Kent. I don’t think i have ever felt so much tension in the city than now and that includes post any of the terror attacks. I was in Bishopsgate one night around ten and walking across the border into Shoreditch. I am a 6ft big guy and i genuinely felt on edge and at risk… that’s new! London is feral and the gap between the haves and the have nots is stark. I genuinely feel Britain now has a lower working class who have no morals or standards. The recent Grenfell bonfire incident was a prime example. I know that the courts, my force, the home office and college of policing are not there for the frontline anymore. Policing is lost and i wouldn’t encourage anyone to join the job anymore. It is a thankless and dangerous profession. And people feel they have carte blanche to hit us, kick us, stab us and kill us. We are i think about 2/3 years away from routine arming. It’s the only way to protect the protectors. Keith Palmer should have been the point where we woke up! We are one of the most violent societies in the Western world. It will only get worse.

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  5. Spent my 30 years as a PC on the front lines in East London and retired last year. There was turmoil, chaos, and desperation. The upper echelons of the job were silent and complicit. I knew that stop & search on my 95% asian estates was saving lives, but then I was threatened with losing my job if I continued my racist ways. I stopped doing it. Besides they loaded me with the duties of 3 other officers, so I didn’t have time for it anyway. I had a full blown mental health breakdown. The stress was so bad and I ended up suicidal and with terrible depression. I gave my all for the job I loved and the senior Officers I met had nothing but contempt for me. I had a letter last week, inviting me back….frankly, it’s more chaotic now and I wouldn’t go back if they paid me triple! We used to joke “The Job’s F^%$ed” but it’s not a joke any more.

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  6. I am on my 25th year and contemplating retirement. All the same problems exist on the US side of the pond. At least we are armed to the teeth with M4s and .40 cal and 9mm semi autos. Still we loss our brothers and sisters to the violence. Violence that is propagated by our elected officials and the media. God willing the pendulum will swing back in our favor. For me, my career is winding down and I go to work numb to my surroundings. What helps me to survive at our jobs, only distroys what we hope for a normal life. Like a decommissioned battleship, we are too old to be of any use to society who can’t waite for us to fade away. Stay strong brothers and sisters.

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