02 March 2017
The latest police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (PEEL) report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has found that the police service is not as well equipped to stop crime happening in the first place as it has been in the past.
Steve White, Chair of the Federation of England and Wales, said: “It’s interesting to note that HMIC highlights that austerity is causing issues and has conceded that forces are ‘struggling to respond to increasing and ever-changing levels of demand.’
“But talk of austerity is actually too simplistic. HMIC talks about a denigration in neighbourhood policing – what do you expect when the central budget for policing has been slashed by 22% since 2010? The number of cops has also dropped drastically – since 2009 we have lost 21,500 officers.
“The Federation has been pointing out the pitfalls of continually taking the axe to police budgets over successive years and warning that it will actually hurt the very people we have pledged to protect – members of the public.
“Some forces are clearly coping better than others, but you can’t compare 43 forces with one another – it’s like comparing apples with pears. What we are seeing is a service that is only being driven by cost constraints and some areas of policing are on the critical list and heading towards intensive care.”
The HMIC report singles out a national crisis in the shortage of detectives, and says the public – including vulnerable victims – are being put at risk.
Mr White said: “This is of major concern. We’ve got a situation where some areas are so short of detectives that one force even resorted to advertising for an unpaid volunteer to trawl car boot sales for stolen property. Yet vulnerable people are being let down because of a lack of resources and vital preventative patrols which safeguard the public are endangered.”
Reasons for the nationwide shortage of detectives include increased workloads combined with a reduced workforce, long hours and increased stress.
Mr White added: “The situation is reflected across all other areas of policing as well, as evidenced by our recent welfare survey where 80% of respondents said they felt stressed or suffered from other mental health and wellbeing difficulties.
“We keep saying it – but this report really has got to be a wake-up call. There now needs to be a proper debate around how much the public and Government want from their police service and how much they really want to spend on it. The public and our officers deserve as much.”