A few weeks ago I accompanied one of Lancaster’s police officers as she patrolled the streets of the city. She is a highly trained professional, committed to her role and experienced in dealing with complex issues from dealing with people suffering a mental health crisis to investigating and helping victims of crime, domestic violence and abuse. I was worried to discover however that due to the Government cuts, she spends much of her time working alone.
The Police Federation has just published the results of a survey which 18,000 officers of all ranks responded to. The survey reveals the police and the public are being exposed to “increased risk” as more frontline officers are forced to work alone. Almost nine in 10 respondents feared there were not enough of them to manage demand while 76 per cent of respondents from frontline roles reported “often or always” working alone – known as single-crewing. The survey found almost every officer had been exposed to at least one “traumatic experience” in their career, with 62 per cent saying they had experienced at least one in the last 12 months. It also found nearly eight in 10 officers had felt stress and anxiety within the last 12 months with 94 per cent of those saying this was caused or made worse by their job. About 44 per cent of respondents said they viewed their job as “very or extremely stressful”.
The federation’s vice-chair says “when officers work alone they are undoubtedly exposed to increased risk, for them and the public, not to mention the detrimental effect on their overall health and well-being.”
The huge rise in police officers working alone is a dangerous consequence of reckless Tory cuts to the police. The Tories’ record is one of failure and broken promises: nearly 22,000 police officers and 7,000 community support officers have been axed since 2010, despite a promise to protect the frontline. When the Police Federation says “the once revered British model of policing is currently on its knees and facing extinction, we need to act now to save it,” the Government needs to listen.