Blotter

In the News: Budget Cuts and Community Policing in the UK

UK officials embark upon immense budget cuts that will greatly impact policing.  Last week Greater Manchester Police excited public attention by Tweeting every call they received in 24 hours. The Chief Constable said he wanted to show that the police don’t just deal with crime and instead play a larger role in the community.  Yet, in the face of impending budget cuts, many feel crime-fighting should constitute the majority of police officer time.  Nick Herbert the Coalition’s Conservative police minister, argues that “Labour’s wasteful legacy,” has allowed for a proliferation of bureaucracy and unnecessary policing costs.  He asserts that police will be able to catch more criminals with a smaller budget and fewer officers.  Jan Berry, outgoing head of the UK’s Police Federation, echoes Herbert’s sentiments over police inefficiency, reporting this past week that up to 1/3 of police time is wasted on red tape.  Ultimately she contends that “Too much attention is given to crossing Ts and dotting Is and not enough to getting it right first time.”

First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, argues that police cuts are necessary, but contends that cuts will affect police bureaucracy -not street policing.  In a recent speech, he emphasized that “if it comes down to a choice between cops and bureaucracy, between bobbies on the beat and the boundaries of police authorities…it’s policemen first, safety first, communities first.”  Strathclyde Chief Constable Steve House, Scotland’s most senior officer, paints a very different picture of policing after the cuts.  He has warned that state spending cuts could drive his force back to the “bad old days” before his community policing revolution.  Scotland is expected to reduce its budged by 25% over the next five years, which House says will force him to take officers off the beat and put them back into patrol cars if spending is slashed as expected.  He argues this change would reduce community members’ sense of safety, noting that “If [the police] have to retreat to the bad old days when all [they] do is put out squad cars racing from job to job with blue lights and sirens that then will just make the public uneasy because they don’t see cops walking, they don’t see them on bicycles, which is what gives them confidence.”

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