THE BLOG
13/04/2018 11:36 BST | Updated 13/04/2018 11:36 BST

We Are Losing Our Police Service

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When I joined the Metropolitan Police in 1983 we were taught the principles of policing written by Sir Robert Peel in 1829, principles which at their heart are as relevant today as ever.

In essence they demand that police have a duty to prevent crime and disorder and to police by consent and to use force only as a last resort. These are vital to successful and acceptable policing in the UK and any where else.

Perhaps most relevant to public debate right now - in a time of massive cuts to policing - is this principle: -

‘To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.’

I believe that UK police are starting to fail to achieve this principle because they are being asked to cut back on all but the most urgent of policing operations and in time this will cause fundamental damage to policing and communities as a whole.

I managed neighbourhood policing teams in central London as well as schools officers. That after more years answering emergency calls on shift.

I know that those communities who need police protection most need to have officers they know and see in their communities to talk to and, often, trust. They needed individual officers who knew that community and what was going on so that sometimes they could act on behalf of the people and intervene without being specifically asked to by citizens - but just as often they could listen to community concerns and take action.

The same principles applied to schools officers - based in large secondary schools in major cities - they were the human face of policing - at best someone to trust - at worst at least someone who took and interest in the welfare of the pupils and knew what was going on.

The point is that these policing activities are what help prevent crime because someone took an interest in the people living or going to school there and tried to prevent crimes and to make it a better place to live in. They often knew who was doing crime and who to tackle by arrest or by other interventions. They knew what was causing crime and could often do something about it before it happened.

As police resources are further cut neighbourhood policing - and other similar activities - are being reduced leaving only an often inefficient 101 phone system and emergency responses to 999 calls.

Obviously other operations will continue - crime investigations - anti-terrorism and so on - but the public face of policing is fast becoming long waits on the 101 phone line or seeing police turn up only at those worst moments when something bad has happened to you.

The 101 phone line is in many senses a very poor substitute for community based policing - the line you ring for non-urgent matters - when you can wait for 15 minutes to get an answer - surely a recipe to deter people trying to speak to police.

This as vital crime prevention falls behind and only crime response and investigation are left.

If the essence of policing is the prevention crimes and reassuring the public then we are slowly losing proper policing and we are left with only responding when it happens.

The Met Police must find a further £400million in cuts up until 2021 - a massive part of its total budget.

There are thousands fewer police in the UK now and reported crime is going up and the police are losing contact with communities and losing opportunities to prevent crime and reassure the public.

The Government doesn’t have to continue to cut police numbers - they are choosing to do so for ideological reasons - meanwhile citizens suffer more crime.

Wealthier communities will buy in extra security whilst poorer communities will suffer more crime but the police will become distant strangers and in the end lose the trust of everyone.