On 21st July Policing cuts have been announced with roughly 34,000 police staff, including 15,000 police officers are to be lost.
Bet you wished you had a say in how they spent their money.... Oh wait- you do? Well the Lib Dems want electable police commissioners who run each constabulary and are answerable to you- the civilians.
I am no expert in policing, I can but talk from the century of policing my family have been involved in including the General Strike, Mosely marches, dealing with the Krays and rural policing in Devon and Cornwall.
When my grandfather was a copper in the Met, indeed when his father served - a Policeman was always visible on the street, they patrolled on foot at nigh tor were situated in the police telephone boxes. They were a visible deterrent.
If a window was heard breaking in the night or screams from a house or alleyway would lead a concerned citizen or police officer to head to help. Now a days everyone's drawbridges are firmly lifted and people would rather watch from the battlements rather than risk personal injury.
The only time I see a policeman now is at home games at Preistfield or in the Chip shop opposite.
In the countryside it is much worse. I grew up in Marden in the Weald of Kent and rarely saw a police officer so crime was always dealt with after the fact rather than in preventative measures.
In fact burglary, domestic abuse, robbery... They've all become a police matter after the fact rather than preventative as there are no Police officers on the street or within easy access.
What of the Community Support Officers?
What of them? Yes they are a visible sign of policing but as one Met officer said they are also referred to as CHIMPS by the regular police. (that is Completely Hopeless In Most Policing Situations. - Thanks for the quote Miss Bell!) This is because they're powers are fairly limited and although opportunists may be put off, harder criminals know what powers they have and haven't got.. They are useful however for filling in for real Police officers in directing traffic or bad news etc but anything else they fall too short. Just a cheap and cheerful alternative to Police and something of a white elephant brought in by the last Government.
Going back to the statistics I would like to through my two shillings worth in. Crime figures are bound to rise over the next few years as we are in a recession and the need for cheap goods or for an easy way to add to the family purse will grow even if the current level of policing was maintained. I hope that Labour will take that into account when criticising the Government.
Also violent crime has remained down. This is because most of it occurs on a Friday or Saturday night in most city centres fueled by alcohol. Police are ever present at these times and very good at handling the binge drinking subculture and help them on their way and breaking up fights. Without them on the street they levels of criminal damage or violent crimes would sky rocket BUT it is policing these places that keeps them away from the suburbs where burglaries etc are happening. Unfortunately Society is unlikely to change to rectify this.
So what needs to happen? In my opinion, which as I've said is just a shade above a layman's, Police officers need to be more visible on the streets and not tied to their desks with paper work. Cuts will happen, no two ways about it BUT chief constables need to not only take responsibility for the cuts they implement but they also need to be clever and trim the fat first before attacking the flesh and skeleton of the force. Buy fewer patrol cars or buy skoda instead of BMW, be economical rather than wasteful.
Greater coordination between constabularies to see if buying in bulk could bring the prices down or share resources.