West Yorkshire’s Chief Constable today warned that cuts to police resources in the county, combined with the demands of a growing population, are putting increasing strain on her “exhausted” officers.
The claim by Dee Collins came on the day the top officer in another large urban force claimed police police would face “real challenges” tackling a repeat of the 2011 riots following years of budget cuts.
Dave Thompson, Chief Constable in the West Midlands, said a series of major incidents to hit the country in recent weeks has laid bare the strains faced by forces under financial pressure, raising the risk of a breakdown akin to that which hit the prison service in 2016.
He called on the Government to boost investment, protect frontline policing including bobbies on the beat and cut bureaucracy in a blog for the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
In a statement issued jointly with police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson, Miss Collins said residents of West Yorkshire now total 493 for every police officer, a rise of 30 per cent in the past ten years.
She said that this and other factors were generating huge demands, which it was increasingly difficult to meet.
I am extremely proud of my officers and staff, many of who are exhausted, having worked incredibly long hours to meet demand and manage large scale incidents in the past few months.Chief Constable Dee Collins
Since 2006, the number of citizens per officer has risen from 379 to 493, which is above the national average of 467, according to police.
This is due to both an increase of six per cent in the overall population and a 19 per cent decrease in officers, down from 5,687 on 2006 to 4,624 in 2016.
The Chief Constable said: “Put simply, the greater the ratio of officers to citizens, the higher the demand.
“While many people in our communities have little interaction with the police, we will always have to tackle criminality and provide support and reassurance to the vulnerable. People need the reassurance that we are there when they need us.
“The significant and increasingly complex challenges of everything from cybercrime to child sexual exploitation is putting a further added strain on resources, as of course is the ever present threat of terrorism.
She added: “I am extremely concerned by the loss of 1,063 police officers, particularly given that Neighbourhood Policing is our vital bond with our many and varied communities.
“Terrorist incidents in recent weeks have highlighted now much communities need our support and reassurance. Community cohesion is a priority for the PCC and a vital part of our work and we cannot afford to lose what we have spent so long building up with our communities, through that neighbourhood approach.
“We are working hard to change the way we do business, harnessing new technology to enable us to work smarter, changing the way we work and a crucial element, focusing on our recruitment on building a workforce that better represents the communities it serves.
“I am extremely proud of my officers and staff, many of who are exhausted, having worked incredibly long hours to meet demand and manage large scale incidents in the past few months. However, our resources will only stretch so far and my concern is just how sustainable this in the long term, without an uplift in funding and resources.”
Amid mounting calls for the Government to consider reversing its cuts to police funding imposed over the last seven years, Mr Burns-Williamson pointed out that central government funding accounted for around 80 per cent of West Yorkshire Police’s budget.
He said: “This is an urgent priority to ensure public confidence and reassurance is bolstered against the backdrop of local and national challenges following the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London,” he said.
He added: “Whilst we have started to increase officer numbers again through new recruitment, much more needs to be done with regards funding and sustained resources for policing to ensure that we can continue to keep our communities safe and enable our officers and staff to provide the best service they can for our communities. The public demand nothing less..
“I warned more than two years ago when I briefed MPs and raised with the then Home Secretary Theresa May that in my view the Government “were taking a gamble on community safety” with the level of cuts imposed, £140 million in West Yorkshire alone.
“As PCC, I have always been committed to Neighbourhood Policing and have protected Police Community Support Officer numbers, but we need more police officers and staff on the frontline.
“Local Neighbourhood Police officers act as that key link from the front line, providing reassurance, visibility, trust and gathering vital community intelligence in helping to prevent extremism, terrorist acts and many other crimes.
“That’s why there is an absolute need to rebuild the Neighbourhood Police footprint across West Yorkshire, along with developing more investigators and other aspects of policing such as skills to combat cyber-crime, safeguarding and the fight against serious and organised crime.
“I am now calling on the Government with others to urgently review the funding arrangements for policing as a whole, not just counter terrorism policing, to ensure we have a long-term plan and sustainable police service in West Yorkshire that can respond to the current and growing challenges ahead.”