Immediately after a terror attack killed 22 people in Manchester and injured 116, police officers across the country felt the strain, coping with the lack of “boots on the ground”.
HuffPost UK shadowed on-call officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Richmond Borough Police to see how budget cuts have affected the force’s front lines while the national threat level was raised to critical.
Just days later, the city suffered its second terror attack of 2017 when three men killed eight and injured 48 at London Bridge, further putting the force on edge.
At the time, the Emergency Response Team are operating at “minimum strength”, which is the minimum number of officers needed to safely carry out their duties.
As security levels heighten in London, four officers from the borough’s Emergency Response Team are called to help with policing elsewhere in the capital.
While Theresa May rolled out Operation Temperer, authorising soldiers to support officers across the capital, the Richmond officers who stay to tackle day-to-day responsibilities feel the absence of the four.
Operating with 12 PCs instead of 14, the required numbers are met by borrowing officers from neighbourhood policing.
“We’ve back filled two [officers] from the neighbourhood policing team to help but they don’t have much skills,” Sergeant Allan tells HuffPost UK as he refuses to appear on camera.
“It’s simple maths, boots on the ground because nothing can replace people actually out doing the job,” PC Andy Smith says.
“Some nights I could say you could double or triple our numbers and it wouldn’t be enough, when you got one person you sometimes need for people.”
When asked about the politics surrounding police cuts, Smith refrains, wary of oversharing. His senior, Allan, however, doesn’t hold back.
“Theresa May did all the damage she did when she was Home Secretary,” he says.
“They’ve kept the policing numbers the same [and] my frustration is constantly seeing the team at minimum strength. [It would be] nice to have more [officers] to respond to calls quicker.”
The lack of PCs has also negatively impacted other duties such as the missing persons investigations unit.
“We weren’t supposed to be going out on calls because we’re a specialist unit, doing missing persons investigation, but I think this is our seventh call” PC Smith said.
“It frustrates me greatly that somebody can come up with a number and it just doesn’t seem to add up, they don’t seem to plan for the worst.”
Two days after the attack on Manchester, the chairman the Police Federation of England and Wales, Steve White, said the police “simply do not have the resources to manage an event like this on our own.”
Police numbers have fallen by around 20,000 since 2010 when the Tories took office.