It is worrying to see that the government is looking to make drastic cuts from the policing budget, despite this posing real risks to some of the more progressive policies emerging in that portfolio.
I’m never persuaded by reassurances that ‘front line’ resources will not be reduced. I saw first hand in the tertiary sector how (initially at least) ‘front line’ teaching staff numbers were not reduced, but ‘efficiencies’ (i.e. cuts) in support staff meant that academics were spending more time with administration and so spending less time with teaching and research.
It is a particularly critical time in policing as the new Commissioner seeks to improve public safety and confidence with initiatives like ‘prevention first’. The focus on community engagement, and preventing crime and reoffending, is exactly the right approach, but it will fail if police officers are not adequately resourced or lack the time to build relationships and to understand their communities. No amount of dealing out iPads and iPhones and other no doubt useful technologies will compensate for an over-stretched and stressed human resource.
Given the government’s enthusiasm for privatisation, one hopes the cuts are not a precursor to seeing here what is happening in Britain, where there is a move afoot to farm out to the private sector many of the functions of the police forces, including core functions like “investigating incidents, supporting victims and witnesses, managing high-risk individuals, patrolling neighbourhoods, managing intelligence, managing engagement with the public”.
A police spokesperson in UK has said “Bringing the private sector into policing is a dangerous experiment with local safety and taxpayers’ money…We are urging police authorities not to fall into the trap of thinking the private sector is the answer to the [governing] coalition’s cuts.”
We need a well resourced police force focused on reducing crime as well as enforcement. We don’t need a run down service, relying on ‘Rent-a-Cop to plug the gaps.