I have written about the future increase in police officer numbers and of course, you will have heard on the news and pre-election, of the 20,000 additional police officers who will be recruited in the coming few years.
This `uplift` in numbers will provide opportunities which have not been available for many years under a prolonged period of austerity, however, the change will happen slowly since new officers will need to be recruited, trained and have time to become independently effective.
New recruits will undergo a three-year training and study programme, during which they will taste policing on the streets under the guidance of a tutor, putting into practice what they have been learning about.
Once they become independent, they will then learn their `trade` properly by dealing with reports themselves, which helps to accelerate progress.
Notwithstanding the fact that they will be new, they are still a visual presence on our streets and wear a uniform and possess all the powers of an experienced officer. It is after all the lack of a visual presence that has been largely responsible for the increase in crime and the feeling among the public that they are more vulnerable to crime.
The increase was quite unexpected, therefore this has changed significantly the future plans of senior officers, who for years have been planning for cost savings, which included reducing the number of police buildings, officers and support staff and with it, a huge re-structuring.
The opposite will now apply, where the challenge will be accommodating this large increase, both in training and accommodating them in a down-sized organisation – however, this is a nice problem to have.
Whilst senior officers have been managing with less, they have, at the same time, been trying hard to respond to demand and achieve results. This has meant concentrating on the more serious crime, or incidents which pose the higher threat and risk to people, whilst being realistic in what the police can realistically do with lower level matters.
It will now become necessary to re-focus priorities to take into account the increase in officer numbers which will match a progressive period of recruitment, because 20,000 will not suddenly arrive and as I have mentioned, they will take time to train.
Those people who present the highest risk of threat and harm to our communities have always remained a priority, but the number of officers assigned to mange this risk has been too small, so some of the uplift will bolster these numbers so that high harm incidents are reduced and offenders managed more effectively.
This will no doubt mean that the increase will not automatically re-set priorities to what they were pre-austerity, because policing has changed over a decade, and low risk, high volume crime and incidents, will need to be a secondary consideration.
That said, all reports will be looked at and a proportionate response or investigation will happen, but this will be determined by what risks there are, plus what realistic opportunities there are to investigate.
It is important maintain these priorities, because if there was an expectation for the police to work as they did pre-austerity, this would erode the effectiveness of police forces to deal with higher risk matters, so this area of policing will probably benefit from the increase numbers first.
2020 is a fresh start and going forwards, there will be opportunity to better respond to the public and see an increase of officers on the streets, which will increase public confidence.
In the UK we still police by consent, therefore at the core of any planning will be the public and what they want and those officers working in neighbourhood policing will be able to gather this information through better engagement and pass this on.
The public are also better enabled to communicate with their local police through social media and on-line, therefore policing by consent should be more accurate too.
PC 1860 Mark Ranola.
Yateley Police Station.