The Government will this week announce their plans for police funding. It is a critical moment after a punishing year for the service and with the police under more pressure than ever before. It is no exaggeration to say the future capability of the service is at stake.
Successive Governments of all political colours recognised that it was reckless to slash the police but this Government have torn up that rule book and our communities are now paying a heavy price.
Crime including the crimes which the public fear the most such as violent crime have shot up to the highest level for a decade. Worryingly, an astonishing number are now being left unsolved, with the total breaching the 2m mark for the first time this year.
Police are responding to a record number of emergency 999 and 101 calls and mental health call-outs are putting the service under mounting pressure as vulnerable individuals fall between the gaps of public services.
And in a year when the UK has seen multiple sickening acts of terror, the threat is such that the UK’s counter-terror chiefs are warning it is now “stratospheric” with police under such strain that a “big number” of terror investigations are being left unworked.
The Prime Minister shamefully accused the police of “crying wolf” over funding cuts, but this was the year in which her grim legacy was exposed. She cannot simply wish away this crisis in policing, it is a crisis made on her watch.
It is little wonder so many Police Chiefs have taken the unusual step of speaking out publicly and forcefully. There is no hiding the fact they are angry at what is happening to their forces and they are insulted at Government claims to have protected police funding when they have done nothing of the sort. A leaked document put together by the UK’s most senior police chiefs was crystal clear; the current settlement is “putting the legitimacy of policing at risk”, leaving a further 6,000 officers under threat at the worst possible time.
What worries the police the most is that as their resources are stretched, crime is rising and becoming much more complex. Domestic violence and sexual offences, for instance, are rocketing with a 130% increase since 2011/12 and the number of sexual offence cases left unsolved has doubled in the last two years to over 16,000. Quite simply the police are struggling to tackle these most vile of crimes and they estimate they would need an extra 500-600 investigators every year just to stand still.
In this context, the Government cannot simply offer more of the same. Now is the time to take radical action and put the police back on the front foot.
They must act to end the national crisis in detectives and investigators; it is having shocking and very real consequences in the police’s ability to keep the public safe and fight increasingly complex crime.
They must fund 10,000 more police officers to help rebuild neighbourhood policing. This is the bedrock on which policing in the UK has been built and it’s little wonder that as community policing has withdrawn crime has risen.
And it is not just the scale of the terror threat that is changing but the nature too. Marauding terror attacks require a proper armed response to an attack that could take place in towns and cities throughout the UK. Senior police chiefs have warned the Government they are operating at the “minimum level required to manage the threat” with an £85m black hole opening up in armed officer funding. A threatened 7.2% cut to counter-terror policing would be an almost unimaginable mistake; they must rule it out this week.
The Government have been warned by the people charged with protecting us that that their task is getting more difficult and their resources are now stretched to breaking point. This week the Government must face up to their mistakes, call time on seven years of reckless real-terms cuts and finally give the police the tools they need to keep our communities safe.