Further reduction of police numbers foolhardy and dangerous

19 November 2015

Steve White, chair, Police Federation of England and Wales, speaks ahead of next week’s Comprehensive Spending Review

This can hardly be described as the calm before the storm.  After all, we are still trying to recover from the hurricane that struck the police service in 2010. So as we brace ourselves for next week’s announcement, we certainly do not expect miracles as the season of goodwill approaches.

That is not meant to sound defeatist but taking the last five years into consideration and the current economic climate, I’m not expecting good news but some respite is long overdue.

We are no longer living with the threat of terrorism – sadly it is all too real. The terror that we continue to witness worldwide knows no boundaries and with the threat level in the UK still classed as severe, the public desperately needs to have the confidence in their police and security services.  

It is due to their vigilance, skill and dedication, that a number or terror plots have to date been prevented.  The need to invest in both the police and security services has never been greater.

We welcome the government’s announcement of an additional £2billion funding and recruitment plans for an extra 1900 staff for MI5, MI6 and GCHQ – ministers clearly recognise that you can’t do anything if you don’t have the people available to do it.

So what about policing?  The cuts have so far resulted in the loss of 17,000 police officers and almost the equivalent of support staff.  

The Paris attacks were on a scale that was unimaginable – to deal with something on a similar scale in the UK would require significant additional investment in specialist officers for a start.

But firearms are just part of the story - at the same time, local neighbourhood and response policing must be maintained to provide reassurance and relationship building with communities.

We must not lose that vital connection with local communities and the public, something which is crucial when it comes to identifying extremism before matters escalate.

Losing this link completely jeopardises the notion of policing by consent and severely risks the ability of officers, despite their best efforts, to gather intelligence from, and build links with, communities.

It would be foolhardy and downright dangerous for the government to refuse to protect the ability of officers to protect the public. The protection of it citizens is fundamental.

Prevention is better than cure. Surely the public would rather the police service was able to continue to prevent this kind of terrorist attack rather than attempt to pick up the pieces after the act?

The Government must urgently review any plans to further reduce officer numbers.  You cannot put a price on public safety.