Police Federation

BBC Panorama highlights consequences of under funding police

National Chair, Steve Hartshorn, reacts to BBC Panorama's investigation into falling public confidence in policing.

9 January 2024

National Chair, Steve Hartshorn

By Steve Hartshorn, PFEW national chair

The episode of BBC’s Panorama, Will My Crime Be Solved, aired at 8pm on Monday 8 January, highlighted a number of criminal cases in which the subsequent police investigation appeared inadequate and the victims of each felt let down by the police response.

Whilst the journalist was at lengths to highlight, rightly, the impact of these crimes on the victims, and appeared to shine a light on police response and investigation inadequacies, I feel that what was missing was an explicit expression of the root causes that have led to such failings.  

The programme correctly notes that recorded crimes increased by 65 per cent in the past decade. The past decade also witnessed a reduction of police numbers by 20,000, a programme of austerity and a reduction, a selling off in fact, of police buildings. There has also been, naturally, a population increase over the same period.  

Harry Redgrave, Chief Executive, Crest Advisory, pointed out: The level, nature and severity of crime have all shifted dramatically in the past decade… The police service is overwhelmed by the level of demand it is facing.”

This is the backdrop that should inform all assessments of police capabilities and capacity. Our members are facing the highest levels of recorded crime and whilst the Home Office claims that we have the highest number of police officers on record, 149,500, the damage done by over a decade of underinvestment, poor recruitment and increased demand, is in no way near being resolved.

Harry Redgrave continued: “Should the increase in the level of demand since 2010 determine the number of officers needed, we would need an additional 100,000 police officers.” This highlights the inadequacies of the Police Uplift Programme in response to the level of crime being faced.

And these figures do not take into account the reduction in police staff, the movement of PCSOs and special constables into full time policing and the vacuum that leaves.

The Government may claim that crime is falling, but a more detailed and considered examination of crime figures, as the journalist points out, highlights car thefts have almost doubled and violent crime has trebled, and crime statistics reported by each force are at record levels.

There are serious questions to address in restoring public confidence in policing and these must start by examining the root causes that have led to the situation policing is faced with today – the highest levels of police resignations year on year, an increasing workload for an increasingly inexperienced workforce – 30 per cent of frontline officers this year will have under five years’ experience, lowest police morale on record and a police force that has received under funding, real-terms pay cuts and increased political pressure.

Our members should not be blamed for the compassion fatigue they experience when they are so over stretched with minimal resources, unable to adequately handle outstanding call lists and file backlogs.

As highlighted by Panorama, an additional 18,000 officers are needed just to keep up with population growth since 2010, and this number grows even higher should serious crimes that are harder to be solved be factored in, and of course will continue to grow as the months pass.

An ever-growing demand on our members, matched by a shortfall of officer numbers that is yet to be repaired, and a funding shortfall, all combine to highlight real-life realities - cuts have consequences and what we are witnessing today is the consequences of years of government funding policies.

The victims of crime deserve better, as do our members.

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