Bobbies on the beat could become an endangered species whose demise could cost Britain vital intelligence on terrorism and security, the head of the Superintendentsâ€™ Association has warned.
Continued cuts to police budgets in England and Wales could lead to a future where the only officers the public will see will be rushing from one emergency call to the next, the president of the Police Superintendentsâ€™ Association will warn Home Secretary Theresa May this week.
Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis will be issuing her warning to Mrs May face to face at the associationâ€™s annual conference in Warwickshire, where she will emphasise how police intelligence â€“ crucial in preventing terrorist attacks and serious organised crime â€“ could be missed if links between the public and neighbourhood officers break down.
Ch Supt Curtis said: â€œWe need the Home Secretary and her colleagues in the Coalition Government to hear this. Neighbourhood policing is a core function of policing in this country â€“ but it risks becoming a victim of cuts.
â€œNeighbourhood police officers develop a very good understanding of the communities they police and the issues they face. They also build up trust with those communities.
â€œIf those officers are not there, we risk valuable intelligence being missed.
â€œPeople will not pick up the phone and ring the police about something they think is minor but will say it to a neighbourhood police officer who will realise it is a valuable piece of information which may help prevent a potentially dangerous incident.â€
She continued: â€œWhile a small number of forces are apparently increasing the proportion of â€˜frontlineâ€™ officers, others are struggling to maintain the number of police officers and police community support officers who perform neighbourhood policing roles.
â€œFurther cuts will be made to police budgets will be made for at least two more years â€“ and probably longer. It is difficult to see where significant savings can be made other than reducing further the number of police officers and staff.â€
The 43 forces in England and Wales have had to absorb a 20 per cent, or Â£2.4 billion reduction in their Whitehall funding since 2010, according to the association.
Some 15,000 police officer jobs have been lost since the last general election, while a total reduction of 31,600, including police staff, is planned by March 2015.
Ch Supt Curtis added: â€œWe cannot let the service evolve to one where all the public see are officers driving from one emergency call to the next â€“ policing in this country means much more than that and chief constables need to make some difficult decisions to prevent this from happening.
â€œIn most forces police staff, who often perform support and administrative roles, have already been reduced to an absolute minimum, which means that the only non-warranted officers left to reduce are PCSOs.
â€œForces have made significant progress over the last 10 years in developing neighbourhood teams that have strong links to their communities, but the reductions to policing budgets may mean that all this good work is undone, and that the public will no longer have locally known officers to engage with, but will rely on their forceâ€™s often stretched â€˜response policingâ€™ capability.â€
Bobbies on the beat could become an endangered species, police association head warns