Johnson's Beating Crime Initiative Requires More Staff, Planning & Money, Retired UK Officers Say
Prime Minister Johnson has pledged to ensure "less crime, fewer victims, and a safer society" with his new plan, therefore delivering on his 2019 election promises. Retired British police and intelligence officers have give their two cents on the matter.
On 27 July, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his new "Beating Crime" plan encompassing a set of reforms to help reduce crime rates in Britain
. Among the proposed measures are increased stop and search powers for policemen, contactable police officers dedicated to serving their area, league tables ranking how quickly police forces answer 101 and 999 calls, and ankle tags on burglars on probation, to name but a few.
The opposition Labour Party and the Police Federation, the body representing 130,000 front line police officers, have criticism
the plan, saying it will never take off. Furthermore, the federation has recently passed a vote of no confidence in Home Secretary Priti Patel over No 10's decision to freeze pay for officers earning over £24,000 amid COVID-related pressures.
Johnson Reversing Ill-Fated May's Policies
Although BoJo's opposition is slamming him for the plan, the British premier deserves credit for trying to reverse Theresa May's disastrous policing measures, according to Philip Ingram, a former British senior intelligence and security officer.
"The Boris Johnson 'Beating Crime' plan announced today is living up to a manifesto promise that helped him secure his position in the 2019 General Election," he says. "It was his predecessor Theresa May who, when she was Home Secretary under David Cameron’s premiership, came in for huge criticism for cutting police numbers and resources. Boris Johnson’s plan is effectively reversing that and going a bit further."
Ingram is not surprised by the Labour Party's skepticism over the PM's plan. Labour sees "no difference in the government of Boris Johnson to that of Theresa May and David Cameron and lump them all together as they were all Conservative Governments," he argues. "As seems to be an increasing norm, their criticism is not followed with any concrete ideas of their own," he adds.
When it comes to the Police Federation, some elements of its leadership could be aligned to current opposition party views, Ingram suggests.
"What is clear from police sources on the ground is that the cuts that happened under Theresa May were a bit deep and have caused a lot of pain that will take years to recover from," he notes. "It is not helped with the politicising of police oversight through the Police and Crime Commissioners all being elected politically aligned positions."
British Police Cannot Do More With Less Officers
Norman Brennan, a retired police officer, who served 31 years in London, is not optimistic about the new government plan. According to him, the proposals have been "ill-thought through" and have not taken into account previous police staff cuts. Furthermore, many police officers now are in "hospitals and dealing with mental health patients and child runaways because many of the other agencies can't deal with all the cuts that they've got," he notes.
"The police sadly do not have the numbers to cope with, or even start to deal with, what Boris Johnson has promised the people of Britain," Brennan says. "And the police are being asked to do more with less."
Presently, police officers are dealing with what they call "fire brigade policing," which means they go from one emergency to the next.
"You never get time to investigate crime," the retired police officer says. "And we’ve got so many demonstrations across Britain now that many police officers are working their rest days, their holidays. They're working 15-hour shifts. And 77 percent of police officers in Britain over the past year said that they've suffered with serious stress and others with mental health issues. Thousands are leaving the police service, and it's really not an attractive job to be in nowadays."
To make matters even worse, the British police have become the "Aunt Sally" of society and being blamed for all the country's problems, he says.
How to Make the Plan Work
Johnson's "Beating Crime" plan has its strengths and weaknesses but it's unlikely to dramatically reduce crimes rates in the near future, according to Dr David Lowe, a retired police officer who carried out a number of uniform and detective roles - he's the head of a consultancy business in terrorism and security.
"I cannot see this plan reducing crime, it is more of a punitive measure and if we accept it as that, that is fine, but do not expect a drop in recorded crime related to burglary and theft related offences," the security expert says.
Echoing Brennan's concerns, Lowe highlights that the government initiative won't work unless the number of police officers is increased. For example, if the plan envisages stepping up the monitoring of criminals, there must be a correlative increase in monitoring facilities and staff, he stresses. Similarly, "introducing league tables on response times is also inappropriate, unless the government continues to ensure there is an increase in police officers," he argues.
At the same time Lowe praises Downing Street's idea to assign a named community officer for neighbourhoods to contact. However, for this to be a success it is important that the same officer is in this post for a decent length of time as the community will get to know and trust him/her, the security expert highlights.
The retired police officer also hails removing the restrictions and controls related to section 60 powers of stop and search as a positive move.
"Any move made to help in preventing and detecting crime should always be welcome, and one move I would make would be to ensure that police officers are remunerated properly and not suffer a 0 percent pay rise!" Lowe notes in an apparent reference to the latest spat between the Police Federation and Priti Patel.
It is similarly important to ensure that the recruitment drive continues to increase the number of operational police officers, both in uniform and CID, he stresses.
"Finally, I would improve and develop intelligence led policing where police forces can focus their resources to where the data/intelligence tells them where crime hotspots are, that would be preferable to the gimmicks proposed by the prime minister," Lowe concludes.