Friday, 29 December 2017
Following recent negative newspaper articles, incoming Chair Calum Macleod defends a police service struggling against increasing odds to protect the public.
The Christmas and New Year period is one of the busiest times of the year for the police service.
Across England and Wales, while people visit their friends and family and enjoy some festive cheer, thousands of police officers are going about their job of protecting the public. At a time when the number of police officers is at its lowest in 30 years, when we are facing a severe terrorism threat level and the service is stretched to breaking point, it saddens and angers me to see an offensive and ill-conceived headline in a national newspaper criticising our police officers when the vast majority are doing the very best they can.
Officers up and down the country are facing difficult and trying circumstances with fewer colleagues and increasing demands. These individuals – our members – put themselves in harm’s way every day for and on behalf of the public.
Police officers are all too often seen as easy pickings, particularly in the quiet news time for the media – we can’t do right for doing wrong.
If we are not out mixing in communities, we are criticised for being detached; if we eat in a local café, we are accused of being lazy and shirking our responsibilities. If we come down hard on crime, we are accused of being heavy-handed; if we offer advice or give a word of warning, we are accused of being too soft.
There has been a lot of mention of police officers failing to attend calls, secure prosecutions and secure convictions. A reality check is needed here – since 2009/2010, central funding budgets for policing have been cut by almost 25%, there has been a loss of around 21,000 police officers from policing in England and Wales, (if you add police staff and community support officers to that figure it is 40,000) – the majority of whom have been taken from frontline policing roles. Quite simply there are insufficient resources to meet the demand that the public quite rightly place on their police service.
Further demands that are being placed on policing are ever increasing, from supporting social services, to assisting those needing mental health services. All parts of the public sector are under severe strain, but the police service never has the luxury of saying no. We are there whenever we are called, but the reality is that we cannot fulfil every function for society – accountability in these specific areas should rest with the appropriate bodies, not with the police.
Police officers are struggling every day and continue to try and meet these increasing demands, and we know that this is often to the detriment of their own health and wellbeing.
The vast majority of the public cherish the commitment and respect the professionalism and dedication displayed by their police service on a daily basis; Police officers who stand in the face of numerous different shades of evil, ready to help in moments of crisis and moments of fear. The public understand the pressures officers face; they do not take us for granted – it’s about time certain newspapers did the same.