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Chairman Nick Smart: Now is the time to invest in policing and try to keep the public safer

2015 Police Federation Conference, Bournemouth, Dorset, Jason Bye, 19/05/15People need to take note of the stark warning from Sir Bernard Hogan Howe – Met Commissioner – regarding the terrorist threat facing the general public and police officers at this time.

It is a positive move to have 1,500 more armed officers across the country. But this will take considerable time to achieve in training those officers who volunteer to become firearms officers.

We still have fewer firearms officers now than we did in 2012 due to the cuts to police budgets.

And it must be pointed out that these extra firearms officers come from existing police numbers. This is not an increase in the total numbers of police officers. This means patrol officers and neighbourhood police officers will make up the bulk of these newly trained firearms officers.

The knock on effect is less officers to patrol and respond to emergencies. Less officers to do that vital community engagement and intelligence gather.

What we have here is a sticking plaster over a massive gaping wound. It’s has been decided that we want to be in a position to better react to an attack. This, given recent atrocities in France et al, is eminently sensible.

However, as a result pro-active engagement and the crucial element of preventing attacks is diminished. We simply don’t have the numbers to do all of this. Anyone who argues otherwise clearly does not have any grasp on the realities of policing at present.

Neighbourhood policing is the bedrock of the British policing model. Policing done with the community, not done to the community. Policing by consent. Go around the world and see the different policing models and styles on offer. There is no police service in the world that is more transparent, more accountable and more professional.

We have lost 20,000 officers nationally in the past 7 years. That’s the equivalent of losing every single police officer in the North East of Engalnd, form Sheffield to Newcastle. Gone. Cuts have simply stripped us to the bone and impeded our ability to deal with everything that is thrown at us. It has taken us back to a 1980’s style of reactive firefighting policing.

Demand is increasing, and changing. The vulnerability agenda – Missing People, CSE, Mental health, Modern Slavery, Human Trafficking, Cyber Crime and Counter terrorism is now 80% of daily business.

It is complex, time consuming and resource intensive….ask any Patrol Inspector working on response about the huge impact Missing From Home cases have on their resources and ability to deal with demand on a daily basis.

No account or cognisance of this is made by those setting policing budget. Those making the cuts simply do not understand that changing nature of policing and predicate budgets on crime data. (The Home Office can’t even record accurately the numbers of assaults on police officers).

Now is not the time to cut more police numbers – now is the time to invest in policing and try to keep the public safer. We need to be pro-active and have the opportunity to engage with our communities, and not just react to incidents.

It’s not just a case of prevention verses cure. We need both elements of reduce the risk to the public.

If politicians do not heed this, then in the event of any incidents occurring on British soil, accountability must lay with those who have made the decision to undermine and underfund the police service at such a critical time.

Date posted: August 4, 2016

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