Just how thin is nation’s blue line becoming

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There are now 10,000 fewer police officers in England and Wales than there were in 2009/10.

Some of you may think that in the grand scheme of things that those losses spread out over all police forces are manageable and will have little operational impact. However, if I point out to you that if you add up the number of police officers currently employed in the constabularies of Lancashire, Cheshire, Cumbria, North Yorkshire and North Wales, the total is 10,049. Yes, the national reduction in police officers amounts to the equivalence of wiping out five police forces and that puts the seriousness of the situation into a proper perspective. There are no plans to remedy the situation; in fact, further budget reductions mean the situation is going to get worse. The Metropolitan Police have just announced plans to reduce the numbers of uniform sergeants and put borough-based detectives back into uniform as part of its plans to cope with losing £500m from their budget. Other police forces are contemplating similar measures, with even a small force like West Mercia proposing a reduction of 200 police officers over four years.These reductions will be a big problem to the newly elected police and crime commissioners who are soon to publish their police and crime plans highlighting their policing priorities.

If they don’t know already, they will soon discover that policing goes on 24 hours a day/365 days a year and just to provide that service you need a lot of officers. They may just find there are not enough officers available to resource some of their ‘new’ bright ideas. Particularly, as on top of the reductions in police numbers and the local priorities for policing, there seems to be an ever-increasing demand from high profile cases and national issues, such as 30 officers deployed on the ‘Plebgate’ enquiry and a good chunk of experienced officers deployed on media hacking enquires, child abuse reviews and preparations to help Northern Ireland police the G7 conference in May. Policing is being over stretched and during the past two years it has been necessary to cancel leave for extensive periods because of the riots and the Olympics. ACPO and the government will find they cannot keep doing that, nor will they be able to pile on more policing priorities and more operational requirements on fewer staff.

These staff reductions may already be affecting the Lancashire area, as some criminals appear to be more willing to take greater risks. There has been a recent surge in armed robberies at banks and shops, rural burglaries and a gang attack on an experienced police officer patrolling the Avenham area. Gaps may already be appearing in the thin blue line!

If you would like Mick Gradwell to give a talk to your society, a presentation or an educational lecture, contact 01253 600800 for further information.