In the wake of the shocking terrorist atrocities in London and Manchester, tough questions are being asked about the true capacity and resilience of our police forces to respond to further attacks. Nationally, our streets have 20,000 fewer police officers on them today than they did in 2010 – some 300 less in Derbyshire alone – and around 310 fewer police staff. While London may be well resourced to respond, how many of our rural forces could cope with a critical incident of the scale we have seen?
Putting things into perspective, in 2006 each police officer covered 482 citizens. By 2016 this figure had increased to 609 citizens, an increase of 26 per cent. And the demands on the constabulary have certainly not diminished.
I urge the new government to address the postcode disparity that exists under the current funding arrangements and ensure that the people expected to protect us and keep us safe are adequately resourced.
The concluding days of the general election saw our attention drawn once again to the shortage of police funding and the need for investment in the kind of grassroots policing that helps officers build fruitful relationships with their communities and contribute to the wider intelligence picture.
We would all welcome the addition of extra neighbourhood police officers across our communities to maintain a high level of vigilance and to build relationships with the people we serve.
The population is continuing to rise and alongside the relentless demands of counter terrorism policing, our officers have a growing array of safety issues to deal with from speeding and anti-social behaviour at the lower end through to organised crime and hidden crimes such as sexual violence and hate crime at the upper end.
Of course, it’s more than just resources. Terrorism, as we’ve seen in the past few weeks, is unpredictable and constantly changing. While it might not be easy to foresee such low-tech and unsophisticated attacks, modern police forces must remain adaptable and evolve alongside the threat to ensure we are always fully prepared to respond.
It has been a deeply upsetting start to the summer and my thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families of those lost and injured in these brutal attacks. Our emergency services workers an incredibly difficult and dangerous job and it is our duty and responsibility to ensure they are able to do it as effectively as possible.
This means strengthening their teams and putting the right number of people in place to build a brighter and safer future.
I would like to take this opportunity to encourage our communities to remain vigilant.
If you have concerns about radicalisation, report it to the Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789321.