Paula speaks out on proposed police cuts in opposition day debate. Read her full speech here:
Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker. I come to this debate with a slightly different perspective, as someone who worked for nearly a decade within the Police Service, supporting victims and witnesses of crime.
I am increasingly concerned at the impact this government’s cuts will have on the people who I worked for, and worked alongside.
Victims of crime will often have just experienced one of the most traumatic events of their life, yet a recent survey of detectives showed that only 39% felt they were able, most or all of the time, to provide the services that victims needed. A terrifying statistic but it will only get worse if the proposed cuts go ahead.
As a consequence of 25% cuts in funding, a number of Police forces will no longer offer to visit victims of burglary, an event which can have a devastating impact on individuals and families. It has been widely reported that one Police force is now piloting a scheme whereby those who report a crime are dealt with via Skype. This may suit some circumstances but surely it should be offered as an option, not as the standard service we can now expect?
While falling levels of crime have been welcomed there is evidence to suggest that certain crime rates are on the increase, particularly violent crime. It is entirely appropriate that significant police resources are being channelled into specialist areas including the investigation of Child Sexual Exploitation, cybercrime and fraud but as a direct result of cuts to Police numbers there are far fewer Police Officers available. Many believe the day of the bobby on the beat will soon become a thing of the past as the Police Service regresses to the provision of a reactive response service.
I recently heard from a Police Officer who told me cuts were already hitting so hard that the scene of a serious sexual assault in a major city had to be preserved overnight as there were no detectives available to attend until the following morning due to cuts in numbers.
In common with many members of this House I have witnessed the benefits of Neighbourhood Policing first hand. Many Officers who serve in Dewsbury and Mirfield have nurtured and developed relationships with the communities they patrol and take immense pride in seeing crime rates fall, cohesion blossom and trust build.
While out door knocking in streets across my constituency it is refreshing to hear residents talk of their dedicated Officer by first name as an integral part of the neighbourhood. Officers working in and among local communities are an essential tool for intelligence gathering, the strength of eyes and ears which should never be underestimated.
Yet we see no sign that this government is committed to preserving neighbourhood policing for the future.
Prevention work is also being hit hard. I know of a local PCSO running football training twice a week for boys and girls. Within weeks of the project starting, anti-social behaviour in a previously blighted area was practically non-existent.
West Yorkshire Police which serves my constituency has seen a reduction of 1100 Police Officers since 2010 and we fear that even more will be lost in the next round of cuts.
An officer told me recently 'we are just managing to keep our heads above water, any further cuts will see us drown. I fear a major incident happening around here.'
A survey of over 32,000 Police Officers revealed that over 70% felt morale was low in their Force with only 10% saying that they would recommend joining the service. Officers talk of being stretched to capacity yet doing their utmost to deliver a comprehensive and professional service.
Of course, we know that the Police Service needs to evolve. Crime is changing and like all public services the Police will need to find new ways to meet new challenges. But real reform needs modernisation not privatisation, investment not cuts, and partnership not confrontation.
Unfortunately, we see the same attitude from ministers to everyone in the public sector. Like teachers and doctors, this government now treats police officers as public enemies, not public servants.
Quite frankly, people in my constituency want police on their streets and a government that is on their side. That is why they elected me to this House, and that is why I will be voting for the Motion today.