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24 February 2022
“We need a seismic shift in how and what we police going forwards…We need to properly resource the police service.”
This was the reaction of Norfolk Police Federation Chair Andy Symonds to comments made by Sir Michael Barber, who is leading a Strategic Review of Policing. The report, due to be published in the next few weeks, will make more than 50 recommendations for the future of forces in England and Wales.
Sir Michael said: "Too often our police are effectively a social service dealing more with mental health and family breakdown than fighting crime.” He added that there “aren’t enough police”, they “haven’t got the best technology” and they face an “organisational challenge” with crimes like fraud needing to be “strategically addressed from the centre” while forces around the country tackle local offending.
Andy Symonds said: “None of what is contained within this review will be a surprise to any police officer. When officers use their powers under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act, generally there is no crime involved but we are the service left to pick up the pieces of the broken mental health services. All of this time is not spent on patrol and responding to other emergencies that do involve preventing and detecting crime.
“We have seen a steady rise in the ambulance service using the police service to plug the gaps. We have been sending officers to cardiac arrests, as the ambulance service don’t have an ambulance to send. Again this is not preventing or detecting crime, but who do they call? The police.
“Police also resource local public events, and we respond to civil emergencies like the recent storms that hit the country.
“Our finite resources are stretched so thinly that we simply cannot carry on doing all of these things. We need a seismic shift in how and what we police going forwards. We need to have an honest conversation with the public on what do they want their police service to do. Because if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. We need to properly resource the police service.”
Andy added that the sharp increase in online crime required investment in the training of officers and the equipment they need to detect these types of crimes. Inflation meant that forces were finding it even harder to budget for this.
He said: “My colleagues are delivering the best service they can, but are hampered by all of the demands and tasks required of them. If we had the numbers and the state-of-the-art equipment, you would see better outcomes for victims of crime.
“The Federation has long called for a royal commission into policing, and I continue to call for this. In the meantime, we need this Government to properly resource the police and allow Chief Constables the autonomy to spend theibudgets on what their forces need.”