A mate of mine who retired from the police in early 2014 sent me this story exactly one year ago today. It's his account of an average night "on the beat."
Things haven't improved apparently.
A short while back, as usual we paraded less than what used to be our minimum strength, funny how they can drop the minimum numbers but the demand keeps rising, all they do is lower the official 'optimum' staffing levels to match the fact there are fewer of us as people are being removed from core jobs to cover laid-off or quitting civvie staff/officers.
As per most days we lose a few from parade straight away - 2 to crime scenes, 2 to a hospital guard and 1 to a constant prisoner watch, we also have to provide officers to meet pre-set appointments to report incidents, they are not allowed to take calls except in the most extreme circumstances, so that's another 2 written off. So we're already strapped and the calls are stacking up. No change there, but this didn't used to happen as much 5 or 6 years ago. Now it's every shift almost.
Anyway, a young lad was attacked on our ground and seriously assaulted. I don't know why - gangs, drugs, some perceived slight, whatever. Our guys arrived first and started first aid, eventually the guy goes unconscious and our crews start CPR before the ambulance crews arrive and take over.
The Ambos are being hit as badly as us with cuts, targets and tail chasing. I'm reliably informed that their demand is rising fast, last year they were losing staff at a bowel-loosening rate through sheer lack of morale, now it's just daft. You expect to have a bit of a wait for an ambulance on a weekend night - the piss heads see to that, but now it's everyday. We used to have massive banter with the ambulance crews, we'd see them at call after call, now we just don't have time, we always say Hi, and try to have a quick chat, but it's not as close as it was because we're all whizzing our arses off bouncing between jobs like blue-light pinballs.
This incident took place in a very public area, a major high street, so it received a fair bit of attention from onlookers and after a brief time, press too. We needed a lot of officers to direct traffic, do enquiries, direct pedestrians, deal with residents needing to access the area, talk to witnesses etc. We had exhausted, hollow eyed officers who looked like they'd run a marathon after a good 30 mins of CPR/First aid, a very seriously injured guy on the floor, wheezing and having London's best medics working on him, a large number of people either trying to sneak past the cordons or just adding to the sea of mobile phones filming this poor lad's desperate moments.
During this, I watched our boss, who was understandably under pressure both from senior officers and the sheer volume of calls that were coming in Vs the deficit of resources, turns to one of our senior lads and says something like "Can you put your tie on, there are lots of people watching".
I don't blame him really, as that's the message that's being sent from the centre - appearances are more important than capability. Perception is greater than reality. Hats and ties, very important apparently.
Now don't get me wrong, I hate it when officers look like a sack of tatties tied with string, but come on.....
It speaks volumes of what's happening right now. We simply don't have enough officers actually on the street answering calls, we had calls unanswered with vulnerable missing persons (also some not-so-vulnerable but that's a whole different story) needing seeing to, several he said/she said domestic calls (which apparently can always progress into murders so need dealing with), standard reports of assaults between flatmates, burglaries, minor assaults etc.... all not getting any response as the bumper box of policemen....er....er...I mean police officers of course... was empty...... but we're not allowed to say it's empty, we're not allowed to say we can't cope, that the Home Secretary's cuts ARE actually destroying an organisation that already couldn't cope.
A colleague and I recently did a wee bit of Maths.
Ratio of actual response coppers available per head of population in 2012 - 1:11,000....... one copper per 11,000 members of the public. I read somewhere that in 1960 it was 1:1000...... no wonder people miss George Dixon.