Suffolk police union issues stark warning over cuts in funding
'Enough is enough' in policing cutbacks. That's the message today from the union representing rank-and-file officers in Suffolk.
Suffolk Police Federation says more than 200 officers' roles have been lost since 2005, leaving the force with 1,070 currently.
The federation's General Secretary Mark Emsden believes the cutbacks have already gone too far. He is adamant something needs to change if there is not to be an even more significant impact on police resources and a further knock-on effect to the public in the future.
He was speaking at a time when policing numbers have been thrown into the spotlight by the recent terror attacks in London and Manchester.
Suffolk Constabulary's benchmark is 1,097 full-time equivalent officers. At Friday's meeting of the service's Accountability and Performance Panel, Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Jupp said the constabulary is around 30 officers short of that figure. By the end of August the figure will be reduced to 15.
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It was stressed it was not unusual for police numbers to be under the benchmark due to the ebbs and flows of those retiring or cutting short their service, and the training of new intakes of recruits.
Senior officers believe there is no cause for the public to be alarmed about the present level of service. However, from a police federation perspective ongoing financial restrictions and their impact on officers are a very real concern.
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Mr Emsden said: 'Change is something we all have to adapt to and embrace and policing is no exception. Changing crime needs a changing approach.
'But change can go too far and we've not just about reached that point in policing, we passed it a long time ago.
'Safety and security has been brought to centre stage in recent weeks for all the wrong reasons. It should not take the loss of so many innocent lives to reach the point where it's clear to see that 'enough is enough'.
'The loss of 21,500 officers nationally since 2009, including 1,250 firearm officers and more than 3,250 neighbourhood officers in a single 12-month period really does matter.
'These losses are echoed in Suffolk with our current officer numbers sitting at just below 1,070 – 125 less than in 2013 and 235 less than in 2005.
'It's not all doom and gloom however, we now have new staff investigators that assist in areas such as cyber-crime. However there is no avoiding the fact our numbers are lower than ever.
'This is against the backdrop of growing demand placed on officers from increasing crime types, including online fraud and Child Sexual Exploitation, increasing requests for mutual aid and the need to pick up the pieces that other agencies leave behind because of their own cuts.
'Yes, new ways of working, new technology and new investment in certain areas of policing like counter terrorism help plug the gap, but more needs to be done. The evidence is there for everyone to see and it's time to act on it.
'Policing is no longer seen as a career for life. Health and wellbeing and pay and conditions often do more to detract than attract people to the profession.
'The challenge remains to support those highly skilled officers we already have in the service, and nurture the enthusiasm of new recruits so they feel motivated to continue with their chosen career in the years to come.
'We cannot deliver what we used to deliver. With safety and security now at the forefront of people's minds, it's more important than ever to make sure officers are sufficiently supported to get the job done.
'This includes the right equipment, legislation, and importantly improved pay and conditions that suitably support and reflect the dangerous job they do.
'There is no quick fix but there are quick actions that will help better protect the public and the police.
'The public support the wider rollout of protective equipment including Body Worn Video and Taser but we need the financial support to use it.
'We are not naïve enough to think equipment alone is the answer, but it will help officers keep both the public and themselves safe.
'Where time really is of the essence is in the need for investment in community policing, communities where the information exists to not only stop the likes of the cowardly terror attacks seen in recent months, but a plethora of crimes.
'Officers are working tirelessly to keep Suffolk a safe place, but something needs to change, as the current situation British policing finds itself in cannot continue.'
PCC tells of concern
Suffolk's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) is also worried about the Government grants the constabulary has been receiving, but hopes things will change.
Tim Passmore said: 'I am very concerned about the funding resource we get for Suffolk Constabulary, which is where the funding formula that was being worked on before the General Election means that we could get a much more reasonable settlement for Suffolk.'
He acknowledged officer workloads are one of the highest in the country. The constabulary is recruiting more officers which he hoped would happen as quickly as possible.
Mr Passmore believes any shortfall in numbers is putting extra strain on existing officers who are already working very hard.
Although he highlighted there were a lot of positives such as the introduction of new technology, the PCC added: 'There's hardly any slack left in the system.'