Blog: “It is not the police who risk becoming irrelevant but the Government”

29 October 2018

Operational Policing Lead Simon Kempton

Operational Policing Lead Simon Kempton

PFEW Operational Policing Lead Simon Kempton reflects on scathing Home Affairs Select Committee report released last week.

The Home Affairs Select Committee scathing report warned that the police risk becoming “irrelevant” in the face of swinging and continued cuts to funding. These cuts affect every aspect of policing, from the numbers of officers available to answer 999 emergency calls to how many detectives are available to investigate serious crimes.

The report concentrates specifically on a few areas which cause particular concern.

Firstly the committee reiterates what we have been warning of for some years; that traditional neighbourhood policing is being eroded with more than a fifth of our capability here having been lost.

Neighbourhood officers, when allowed to do their job properly resourced, provide that vital link between the community and the police. They are the face of policing which we get to know and trust. They are our first and our preferred point of call when we want to pass information to the police, or simply to ask a question. 

When we lose the face of policing, when we become a service which is purely reactive and only ever seen when something has gone wrong, we begin to lose some of the trust which has been built up over years of dedicated and selfless work by colleagues across the country.

Our government readily expresses how proud it is of the “traditional British Bobby” whilst simultaneously tolling the death knell of this most crucial aspect of our service.

Another area exposed publicly as failing miserably is that of technology. I have served as a police officer for nearly 20 years. In that time I have seen VHS videos come and go. My mobile phone, once little more than a brightly coloured noise maker, is now a powerful handheld computer. From its inception as a collection of fairly dull pages of information, the internet is now a gateway to all of human knowledge.

But the internet is also a gateway to a darker side of humanity, of drugs, weapons, indecent images of children and people trafficking. And it is clear from the report that what officers have been saying for some time now is true; we have fallen behind criminals in a technology arms race.

This is a stark example of where we have fallen behind criminals and are playing catch up. Criminals are able to share information quickly and securely across platforms, collaborating successfully and are unencumbered by things like geographical boundaries. They can communicate freely and easily and use that technological agility to great benefit. We see this today most starkly with the county lines drug networks.

In short, criminals have often been more successful than we in doing the very things which have long been identified as vital in combatting crime and criminality.

And it is in the area of technology that the Home Office can truly take a leading role, not just in terms of funding, as critical as that is, but in taking a strong leadership role in policing.

Too often officers are left with substandard equipment which frankly fails to deliver. I would like to see the Home Office, in conjunction with PFEW, to ensure that suppliers of this equipment must open up their software to allow the myriad systems we use to talk to each other. This better integration will allow us to more effectively and efficiently hunt down those criminals and reformists who would otherwise target the vast majority of innocent, decent people.

We join the police to help those who are most vulnerable in society. We join to do good, to make our society a better place. But increasingly we have our hands tied behind our backs and this soul destroying situation only adds to record levels of poor morale and ever-rising levels of stress,  is endemic across policing.

Whilst I welcome this honest, sometimes brutal report and can see the truth In what it lays bare, I must disagree in one part; it is not the police who risk becoming irrelevant but the government as they continue to fail in their first duty of protecting the public.