What should the police be doing?

Tuesday, 17 November, 2015

Writing today in The Guardian, Polly Toynbee considers the pressures faced by police following cuts to social and health budgets. She highlights shrinking police numbers and bemoans the loss of neighbourhood police and poses the following question:

The question home secretary Theresa May has to answer is this: what should the police stop doing? they might stop chasing might be suicides, or no longer guard psychotics the hospital won't restrain until psychiatrists section them.

Ms Toynbee later concludes:

You could give more to mental health and social services to ease their case loads and save police time. Vanished youth services could be restored, instead of police coping with the fallout.

If not, then we need the police to sweep up after the cuts in every other service.

Writing for The Guardian website in September 2015, the Centre's director, Richard Garside, argued that police budget cuts offer an opportunity to 'rebalance public policy'.

Youth and social workers, professionals in health and education, local authorities and civil society organisations should be providing the default response to a range of social issues that are frequently treated as criminal problems. The police can then be left to focus on a narrower range of core functions.

Police officers are understandably concerned that the many things they currently do will not be picked up by other services. But they cannot be expected to lead on solving a problem created by politicians who are happy to impose cuts without thinking seriously about the necessary breadth and depth of public services – the hallmark of a fair and decent society – and what it takes to fund them.