POLICE forces are having to pick up the slack as cuts in other public services increase pressure on them, according to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Thomas Winsor, in a new report published.
In his annual State of Policing report, Sir Thomas draws attention to material pressures on police forces in England and Wales, which put the service under strain.
The principal pressures he highlights are as a result of:
* The failures of other public services, especially in respect of children’s and adolescent mental health, too often making the police the service of first resort, long after the chances of effective prevention have been lost;
* The modern tsunami of online fraud;
* Increased police awareness of crimes against vulnerable people, including the elderly and the sexual exploitation and abuse of children, requiring the devotion of higher specialist police resources; and
* The fragmented state of police information and communications technology.
Sir Thomas said: “The police are considered to be the service of last resort. In some areas, particularly where people with mental health problems need urgent help, the police are increasingly being used as the service of first resort. This is wrong.
“The provision of mental healthcare has reached such a state of severity that police are often being used to fill the gaps that other agencies cannot. This is an unacceptable drain on police resources, and it is a profoundly improper way to treat vulnerable people who need care and help.
“The obligation of the police is to prevent crime. This is not only because this makes society safer – both in reality and in perception – but also because it is far cheaper to prevent a crime than it is to investigate and arrest the offender after the event.
“The same is true of mental ill-health, which is not a crime. It is an old adage that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, and this is particularly true when the cure fails and an emergency intervention is required to protect the safety of an individual in distress and, often, people nearby.”