Neighbourhood Policing in the spotlight Date published: 12th March 2015 12am
Perhaps unsurprisingly as the General Election approaches, commentary on cuts to policing are creeping up the agenda.
A number of my senior colleagues across the country have expressed doubt about the future of Neighbourhood Policing in the light of continued cuts and changing expectations about how we use the skills of our officers and staff.
I have no desire to ignite a political debate about the rights and wrongs of who gets what in austerity. Indeed the last few years have shown that policing and politics are a heady and often impalpable mix.
Politics is the domain of the Police & Crime Commissioner, but I feel no need to think twice about an unequivocal commitment to Neighbourhood Policing.
To begin, I suppose we first have to clarify what we mean by this term. Ironically, Neighbourhood Policing is a term coined by the service, not the public over a decade ago. A response to the insatiable clamour for that very British icon - a ‘Bobby on the Beat’.
Someone who is there more often than not – not parachuted away to police major events or form crime fighting squads. Someone who is known to and familiar with the local community, who understands local policing issues and concerns and has a stake in solving them.
In short, someone who is visible, someone who cares, listens and takes action on behalf of local people. Commentators may conclude Peel 'in action' – to coin his phrase, a citizen in uniform, policing with local consent, addressing local issues.
I have no problem in signing up to that. Indeed, in the face of growing challenges, why wouldn’t we? Regression to a fire brigade/squad type of policing must be a last resort; a desperate, not a conscious, choice.
Hence our commitment here in Cheshire to grow Neighbourhood Teams by two thirds this coming year. More presence to tackle local issues and more eyes and ears to prompt action against regional and national threats – be that the emergence of a cannabis farm fuelling the proceeds of organised crime in your back yard, or a violent extremist in your street.
So for me, no last resort, but one line in the sand we should not withdraw from.