In 2010, Gloucestershire Police had 1,309 Officers. The most recent Government statistics show this is now down to just 1,089 – a reduction of 220 Officers working within the Force.
With the recent announcement of the Police Funding budget from Westminster – and no extra money for policing – the reality becomes Gloucestershire may only have the budget for 1,042 Officers – potentially making the cut of Officers over 250 in total.
Sarah Johnson, Gloucestershire Police Federation Chair, outlines what this will mean for her workforce and the public in Gloucestershire.
“As an organisation we need to understand the exact level of warranted staff – police officers – we need in order to deliver our frontline services. Not just on a day to day level, we need to ensure we have the correct staffing for exceptional demand – such as floods, riots or terrorist attacks.
“Currently, I don’t believe the force understands that true demand. So, before any further cuts to police officer numbers are made, I would urge the force to do that piece of work so that they can understand how far they can lose the flexibility that they’ve got.
“Within the force we have been moving some of the functions that Officers were doing over to Police Staff, however we need to remember this flexibility of moving warranted Officer from their day to day roles when these exceptional circumstances occur. You don’t have that flexibility with Police Staff members.
Gloucestershire Police has seen an 11% increase in crime over the past year, with a total of 32,803 crimes.
With this level of crime and increasing demand – while continuing to lose officer numbers – how will the service cope?
“A problem that we have created ourselves, and naturally from the type of people who work in policing, is that want to say ‘Yes’. Everybody wants to do that little bit more, wants to help whoever is in need at that moment in time.
“So, yes, this does add to the issue on demand. However, that doesn’t get away from crime levels that are increasing, and police numbers that are reducing. It is never going to add up.
“We need to look at what we do. We used to collect stray dogs. That clearly isn’t a police issue and that has moved to the council. That is just one example of things that have been done and things that will continue to be done.
“We now need to ensure that happens across all police and service providers – mental health teams, for example, ensuring they are equipped to do their job. Investment needs to be made in those areas, because there’s a huge amount of time that police officers take up looking after people who are unwell due to medical conditions, and that’s not sustainable, and that’s not what the police service is there for.
“The force is looking at working smarter. We’re looking at new initiatives, such as if there is evidence that can be uploaded from an incident, then doing it so there is no need for somebody to attend to specifically collect the evidence.
“Investments in the digital world and being able to do things in a more modern way needs to be made. Again, that comes back down to finances and having the funds to be able to invest up front so that we can reap the benefits afterwards.
“The force restructure, that’s currently in the middle of being implemented, will mean that there will potentially be more police officers looking at initial crime calls, dealing with things as effectively and as quickly as possible so that they do not clog up the system, so that they’re not passed to the area and then have to be handed on to somebody else to deal with.
“If these things are resolved quickly, it means that the neighbourhood teams have more time to work within their neighbourhood.
“It will take a while to make sure that everybody is in their place and the system starts working as it is designed to, but the outcome will be welcomed.
“But it all comes down to the need to make sure that we maintain the levels of staff that are needed, and until the processes are in place and working we don’t know whether we’ve got those levels of staff that are required.”
And what about fears that officers will be drawn away from communities and risk missing out on vital intelligence that could help prevent terrorism.
“Intelligence comes from all different sources and the closer we are to our communities, the more intelligence we have.
“If intelligence doesn’t come from the grass roots level and isn’t recorded and assessed and escalated as and when it’s needed, then of course that’s going to have an impact on security on a bigger scale.
“We need to make sure that we continue to work closely with our partners so that we don’t lose that information, to make sure that the police are accessible to the public, so that people talk to us and are not afraid of doing so. Great efforts are being done to maintain the neighbourhood teams but, if we don’t get it right, then we do of course run this risk on large scale security.”