London has 1,000 fewer trained firearms officers than in 2009
As unprotected government departments await the results of the Comprehensive Spending Review this week, protecting funding for the police across the UK has never been more vital.
The devastating attacks on Paris last week brought home the importance of protecting police funding in the capital. Last Friday I wrote to the home secretary, urging her to do all she can to protect police numbers and ensure that the Met are adequately resourced to protect the capital.
Since the attacks on Paris there has been an open and welcome debate on the number of trained firearms officers in the UK, which has decreased by over 1,000 since 2009.
It is essential that London is able to properly respond to a roaming terrorist attack, and the commissioner has stated he will increase the number of officers trained in firearm use.
However in addition to specialist resources it is also imperative that there is trust between the police and the communities they serve. Neighbourhood policing has played an integral role in creating confidence and co-operation between the public and the police.
Indeed, neighbourhood policing has been described as the ‘golden thread’ of counter terrorism strategies by Peter Clarke, former deputy commissioner with the Specialist Operations Directorate.
Mr Clarke is correct in his assertion that ‘neighbourhood police hold one end of the thread that can take us from Britain’s streets to wherever in the world terrorists are trained, equipped and radicalised’.
It is undeniable that local and neighbourhood policing has encouraged Londoners to come forward and raise their concerns, for the very fact that they do know and trust their local officers.
Just this month assistant commissioner Mark Rowley, the Met’s lead on Counter Terrorism, said ‘the relationship between the police and the public and the amount of information … has been fantastic recently. We need that to continue, because it is that vigilance which gives us the first insight into a possible attack’.
When I questioned the mayor on this issue at last week’s Mayor’s Question Time, he was in agreement with me on the importance of local policing in counter terrorism operations. However London has already lost 3,205 police and community support officers and 2,496 police officers since May 2010.
In the last year we have seen overall crime rise across the capital by over 23,400 offences, a 4 per cent increase (and this does not include cyber-crime). It is abundantly clear that police resources are already stretched and that further cuts will deplete frontline policing.
The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service recently stated that London could potentially lose 5,000- 8,000 officers in the next four years and discussions are also under way on the future of all police and community Support Officers in London. He also made it clear that the police response in the event of a large scale attack would be ‘less flexible’ if the expected cuts go ahead.
The Metropolitan Police have already faced budget cuts of £600 million, and in the next week it is probable they will have to cut another £800 million by 2020. Any further reductions in police spending, especially on this scale, will significantly change the nature of London’s policing.
We have all seen the incredible work the police do, and the risks they face each day to keep us safe. At a time of wide ranging cuts to the public sector the police will of course not be immune. However as other public services also face deep cuts it is likely the police will pick up the pieces.
The first duty of government is to protect its citizens, pushing ahead with drastic cuts would seriously jeopardise their ability to meet that task.
Joanne McCartney AM is Labour’s London Assembly policing spokesperson
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