A Chief Constable offers a reassuring voice of authority in a time of crisis. But many of the leaders of Britain’s police forces feel that now is the time to speak out about the potential impact of cuts on the frontline.
Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, issued a frightening warning about how his force might have to deal with future cuts, which could total £40 million in the next year.
There’s a stark choice here… Either we completely redesign the public service and do things in a very different way, work completely differently with the other public agencies. If we don’t do that, we’ll be back to the sort of fire brigade policing of the 1980s when I became a police officer.
If the comparison with firefighters wasn’t startling enough, he suggested that police officers in the future, more tightly constrained to their offices, might look like call-centre bankers.
We need to do more work on the telephone and on the internet. We’re going to change the way we provide service in the way your bank has changed the way it provides a service.
Senior police officers have warned about the impact of cuts many times before. But few have offered such a vivid picture of how policing in the future might look.
But the Home Office says it’s up to Chief Constables like Sir Peter to make policing work with much tighter budgets. And they point out that crime has fallen significantly over the last five years.
When politicians are accused of compromising the form of policing crafted by Sir Robert Peel, they might point to his ninth principle:
“The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder”