Boris Johnson urged to use cash boost to reverse 'collapse' of community policing

Posted On: 
14th August 2019

Boris Johnson should use his new police funding pledge to reverse the "collapse" of community policing, a former senior officer has said.

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Richard Walton, former head of the Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorism command said communities were being "short-changed" after a decade of cutbacks which had reduced the ability for local officers to detect and tackle crime.

The Prime Minister has already vowed the recruitment of 20,000 new police officers would start "within weeks" in a bid to tackle a surge in violent crime and stabbings.

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Alongside Home Secretary Priti Patel, Mr Johnson said he would "come down hard on crime" as he ordered an expansion of stop-and-search powers alongside the creation of 10,000 new prison places

But, writing in a new report by the centre-right Policy Exchange think tank, Mr Walton said the bulk of new recruits should be used shore up local operations which have faced "total collapse".

"Above all, it is clear that neighbourhood policing is where the vast bulk of the new resources need to be focused with additional support going towards the fight against organised crime networks," the ex-Met chief said.

"Neighbourhood or community policing is an indespensible part of the fabric of modern operational policing delivery and integrally linked to police emergency response and the investigation and detection of crimes.

"The public know policing presence when they see it. Right now, they know when they are being short-changed."

'Overbearing scrutiny'

Meanwhile, the report also called for a reversal in "overbearing" scrutiny of the police, which Mr Walton claimed was damaging officer retention rates and impacting on morale.

He added: "Additionally, much more must be done - and this report explains how it can be - to reduce the huge bureaucratic burden on police officers, which includes overbearing and excessive scrutiny which does little to reduce real crime and is helping to make policing unattractive both to potential recruits and seasoned officers.

"In recent years, police accountability has already improved considerably at the operational level through the rollout of bodyworn cameras."

Other measures outlined in the report include a shake-up of policing structures by creating a formalised three tier structure of local, regional and national forces, as well as developing a fresh three-year "Crime Fighting Strategy" to tackle violent crime.

Commenting on the report, Sir Mark Rowley, former Met Police assistant commissioner, said: "It was perfectly reasonable at the start of the Government's policy of austerity to expect policing to make efficiency savings but the cuts went too deep and lasted too long.

"The injection of 20,000 additional officers will not create the momentum needed to turn this situation around. Police officer numbers do matter. This was obvious but has now been proven."