Policing is under intolerable pressure and the Government must take urgent action to resolve the growing crisis, the Police Federation has warned.
National chair John Apter said a lack of genuine investment was now putting the public at risk with the consequences of low officer numbers and the extra demands of the coronavirus pandemic starting to become clear.
His comments, which follow renewed criticism of the police in the media, were backed by Gwent Police Federation chair Steve Thorpe who warned officers were struggling to cope with the extra challenges they now faced.
John said: “It seems that no matter what happens within society, the finger of blame always leads itself towards policing, before the facts are known.
“The harsh reality is, despite the almost daily information being put out by Government and other agencies about the increase of police officer numbers, that we are still nowhere near where we need to be to react to everything the way the public would expect and the way that we should be able to. This is an inconvenient truth for some.
“Compared to a decade ago, we have more than ten thousand fewer officers and thousands fewer police staff, many who perform critical roles often unseen by the public. At the same time as police numbers remain significantly reduced, the population across England and Wales has increased by more than 4 million. This has a consequence.
“Low numbers and a global pandemic mean that there is more pressure. Pressure on frontline officers, response policing, detectives and pressure on back office functions including departments like firearms licensing. The pressure is intolerable and leads to delays that are unavoidable despite our best efforts.
“This is the reality that policing is facing, while at the same time being held accountable for matters that sit firmly with other agencies. Policing is often the service of last resort and we can’t always say no, we can’t close our doors at 5pm on a Friday afternoon.
“We need to increase our numbers, officers and staff, above what is promised by the Government or we will continuously be chasing our tail, never being able to be fully proactive in dealing with the pressures we face. The lack of genuine investment in policing is putting the public at risk and that is something that no society should ever accept.
“My colleagues, officers and staff, are committed to doing everything that we can to keep the public safe, but we need the help to do this.”
Steve said the Gwent branch welcomed the national chair’s statement and echoed his calls for urgent Government action.
“Our members are doing an extraordinary job in the most difficult of circumstances but feel the pressures on them are growing by the day,” he explained.
“The brave men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our communities are dedicated professionals who show incredible resilience, often in the face of hostility, to meet the demands expected of them.
“But the lack of investment in policing and the Government’s failure to give police officers the proper recognition they deserve has left them feeling let down and taken for granted.
“Every one of our members puts themselves at risk when they go to work each day but police officers are human beings and there is only much pressure they can take.
“The Government has to sit up and take notice of what is happening on the frontline and introduce urgent measures to ensure the safety of both our members and the public they protect.”