90 days from today is Thu, 19 September 2024

Avon & Somerset Police Federation

Police Officers need the ability and confidence to say ‘no’ when asked to pick up the slack from other agencies

24 March 2022

Police Officers need the ability and confidence to say ‘no’ when asked to pick up the slack from other agencies, Avon and Somerset Police Federation has said. 

Andy Cooke, the new head of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services, told MPs this week that up to 40% of officers’ time is taken up on mental health calls.

Mr Cooke told the Home Affairs Select Committee yesterday: “An awful lot of Police Officers' time is taken up looking for children missing from home and absent from care.

“If that's what the public and Parliament want Policing to do, that's fine. But you must bear in mind while they're doing that, they're not doing other things that they should be doing, like detecting crime.

“With the wide scope that Policing has, in my view there needs to be a decision made in relation to what we want from our police service moving forward, and whether other agencies need to step into some parts of that sphere.”

Mark Loker, Avon and Somerset Police Federation Chair, described these comments as “refreshing, very welcome and the truths that politicians need to hear and take heed of.”

Mark said: “It is no secret that Police Officers spend more time getting called to incidents when other agencies, such as the NHS, Social Services are unable to respond.

“We spend more time dealing with Mental Ill Health than we do dealing with crime and public disorder. We don’t even attend all Burglaries anymore; we don’t attend the basics that out public expects from us. How was this allowed to happen and who is responsible for that? I can assure you, it’s not Police Officers who wanted this, we are not responsible for this. We want to catch criminals, we want to support victims of crime, we want to protect the public.

“So, I contend that the crisis in policing is actually caused by the Government and our police leaders need to say ‘No’. The Police are the public service last of resort and we are not doing our jobs because of competing demands, let’s have the courage to say ‘No’.”

Mark added: “Helpfully Mr Cooke’s comments are supported by the release of The Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales, Led by Sir Michael Barber, which examined the ability of the police to respond to crime.

“Sir Michael warned that officers are being ‘distracted by social problems’, as he highlighted the large amount of time officers spend investigating missing person reports.

“So, should we be the primary resource dealing with mental health? Absolutely not. Should we be the primary resource backing up the NHS? Absolutely not. We are cut to the bone, we have been decimated, stripped of resource, but because other services are equally cut to the bone it falls on the Police to do what they cannot and that comes at a cost to Policing and supporting our public. We are constantly expected to do more with less and then condemned and criticised when we cannot do it all.

“We find ourselves in an impossible position, but until policing is allowed to say ‘No’, there will always be a crisis in policing as this is breaking Police Officers?”

Mark concluded: “If the Government and all these scrutineers of Policing want to solve this so-called crisis in policing, how about letting us deal with what our public and communities what from us, let us do our jobs and not the jobs of other agencies. If our public want us to deal with keeping law and order and not being the reserve for the NHS, reserve social services, and the reserve fire brigade, give us the ability to do this and give us the legal protection to say ‘no’.

“Until that’s the case, this is completely hot air and it’s pointless.”