The head of the private security company G4S in the UK, David Taylor-Smith has warned that private companies will be running large parts of the police service within five years. This comes as unions and the Police Federation warn of "creeping privatisation". As somebody who has significant interests within the police service and as somebody that holds a qualification in policing, investigation and criminology, I have spoken to countless police officers past and present from all ranks from across the country and there is genuine concern amongst rank and file officers about police reform. One only has to look at the 35,000 police officers and staff who marched in London to realise something is wrong.
Make no mistake; the police service is under immense pressure to reduce costs as a result of the 20% cuts to the policing budget announced in the comprehensive spending review in 2010. Of course savings can be made and of course there are times when some police forces do waste money but the core element of policing is under threat as a result of the 20% cuts. It is under threat because frontline police officers and police support staff will have to be cut back. I spoke to one member of police staff who worked for Greater Manchester Police whose job was to work with local neighbourhood policing teams to reduce youth crime. This was an incredibly poor area of Manchester with high levels of unemployment and youth crime. Her role was important in that the way she approached situations and liaised with the youths worked and as a result youth crime decreased.
She told me how she was being made redundant as a result of the cuts. She is just one of the 16,000+ members of police staff nationally that are being made redundant. It is not the fault of the police forces but the result of the 20% figure rather than the 12% figure the police said they could survive with. However it is worth noting that even with 12% cuts to the police budget there would still be redundancies.
Not all of the proposed reforms of the police service put forward by Tom Winsor should be rejected and dismissed by those who serve within the police. It would be factually incorrect to say the police service in Britain does not need reforming because it does. We need a police service that is fit for purpose and anybody who knows about policing will tell you that the police service as it is is not fit for purpose. Police forces across the country must be run like businesses and be cost effective.
Police officers work incredibly hard and no day is the same. Some of the stories that I have been told by the likes of my grandfather and police friends about calls they respond to literally send a shiver down one's spine. Officers respond to emergency calls yet know they might not return home after their shift. Policing in Britain is becoming incredibly political, particularly with the introduction of police and crime commissioners which is a horrendous idea. Already one Chief Constable has resigned from his post over the reforms and a number of other Chiefs both serving and recently retired have warned the government over the path they are taking.
The Home Secretary must work in co-operation with the police to ensure we can protect the frontline and protect the men and women of the police service that serve us day in day out. We need a police service that is fit for purpose and cost effective. Sadly despite the warnings from some of Britain's most senior police officers, the Home Secretary refuses to listen. The fight for the survival of the British police service is on.
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