You don’t have to look very far these days to stumble across a headline that in some way refers to public spending cuts.
Invariably, such articles refer to policing with people like me, in public-facing positions, having to explain the inexplicable – how we can continue to maintain service levels with grossly reduced grants from central government.
Operational policing is complicated and one of the trickiest tasks is managing public expectations.
A whole army of people, from uniformed police officers and detectives through to intelligence analysts and IT experts, are involved in keeping the residents of Derbyshire safe yet by and large, most ordinary people still base our protective capacity on how many ‘bobbies on the beat’ we are capable of employing.
This, as you can imagine, leaves us with significant reassurance problems given that police numbers have fallen dramatically during the government’s austerity era.
In reality, there is little evidence that untargeted foot patrols have any impact on offending levels but what is clear is how much comfort members of the public derive from seeing a uniformed police presence in their street.
That said we cannot get away from the fact that we are staring at further multimillion pound deficits in the next five years and the need to wipe up to £26m off our budget costs, which has and will continue to result in the closure of redundant buildings and the loss of police officers.
It’s crucial that we ‘get clever’ and develop a new style of policing that is sensitive to risk and threat and penetrates the hidden criminality that puts children and vulnerable people at risk of harm. Why is this so important? Well quite frankly that’s the only way we will continue to keep on top of demand.
We’ll never stop the uniformed reassurance patrols but increasingly we’ll be looking for support from our specials and police volunteers to assist that visibility function, in addition to our neighbourhood officers.
I’m also going to do my utmost to protect the frontline but it’s again timely to reiterate that the frontline doesn’t merely consist of ‘bobbies on the beat’. This is just a fraction of the work that goes on in Derbyshire to keep criminality at bay.
We need the right experts in the right place to reduce harm and this might not always be a warranted police officer.
Technology has given criminals access to our homes that is far beyond the capabilities of a burglar. It’s vital we employ mutually sophisticated IT experts to trace and uncover these threats alongside our talented and dedicated police officers who will continue to respond to the risks on the ground.
Policing in the 21st century can’t just be about policing. We have to look to other sectors, industries and our partners for solutions. This is essential - with or without an infinite budget.