Resource to risk is a familiar term often heard within the police family. On the face of it, a thoroughly sound principle. Direct the greatest number of officers towards the biggest risk of crime. Usually, but not always, that probably means a busy town Centre night time economy and all the related problems that go with it.
Now before I go any further I am not allowed to be political in my statements. I have no problem with that. I willingly accepted those caveats when I became a police officer. Further more, my supervisors will probably read this blog at some point. So, I don’t wish to fall foul with the latter as a result of the former, if that makes sense. In any case the following ramblings are purely my own personal opinion, forged by years of policing. I don’t have management experience and don’t pretend the task my supervisors have both immediate or further up the chain is easy.
Now going back to risk. How do we quantify it? Well usually by analysis and statistics. There are obvious examples where police intervention is needed and required. Some are less so. I use a busy town Centre at night again. It has been my experience and long before the current austerity measure’s started to bite that no matter how many officers you throw into a town Centre it will never be enough. More officers mean the ability to report more crime. More crime, using resource to risk, means that more officers have to be deployed into the town Centre. It’s a snake eating its own tail.
Conversely and perhaps perversely, crime prevention cannot be measured. The visible presence of patrols on lets say the motorway reduces accidents and moving traffic offences. The figures fall and so officers are drawn away from that area onto more pressing issues. They become a victim of their own success. As sure as eggs is eggs, the absence of that deterrent will soon see a rise in the very things those officers patrolled to prevent. How that wheel rotates.
Clearly, budgets are at the forefront of what the police do today. It is inescapable, and to suggest otherwise is folly. Slowly, in my opinion though, I see a slow sea change where chiefs are starting to say the service they give to the public may be affected by the latest round of cuts. This is the first time I have heard this.
Police services can only cut so much. Capital expenditure, infrastructure, property sell offs. Once that has been done and there is nothing left in the sideboard to sell, then the spot light must fall on the Officers themselves. There’s the argument of front office staff vs back office. That’s a topic in itself and all I will say is that you cannot have one without the other. The ratio is open to discussion.
So I believe there is a very important question looming and one that’s going to hit all the police services with the ground rush of a parachutist falling to earth.
What are the police actually prepared and able to deal with? More importantly what are they prepared not to deal with?
I believe at some point within the near future, that police services up and down the country are going to have to grasp that thistle and come to a decision. Each of the 43 forces will be in a stronger or weaker position dependent on their finances.
Ultimately though, the decision of what or what not to deal with must be decided with those that “pay our wages” and not the government of the day whoever they might be. The PCC’s will have a pretty tough task over the next few years I suspect.