Our police should protect people, not profit
If you get burgled or are a victim of crime, you want to know that the police will be there for you. Our police services are one of the most fundamental public services we have, keeping us safe and working with vulnerable members of our society. So, it’s not surprising that 62% of you don’t want our police services to be privatised.
Despite this, government cuts and encouragement of privatisation are threatening the future of our police and have led some communities to seek out privatised alternatives. We don’t want to end up in a situation where some of us have a police force protecting them and some of us do not. We need to keep our police services properly funded and publicly owned.
Wtf is happening?
"A key concern is that any rush to outsource is driven by budgetary pressures rather than wider organisational strength and without sufficiently considering the risks to service quality” John Biggs, Chair of the Budget & Performance Committee
When the now Prime Minister, Theresa May, was in charge of our police forces she decided to cut funding, admitting that this would mean “fewer people, fewer buildings and less room for error”. Between 2010 and 2015 police budgets were cut overall by 18%. A report this year by the watchdog, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, revealed that government cuts have left our police services in a “perilous state”, leading to a range of “disturbing” and “dangerous” policing practices.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council Chairman, Sara Thornton, has noted that cuts have forced our police to make “fundamental changes”, including bringing in the private sector. This is all part of the government’s plan. In 2012, following a 20% cut in Whitehall grants, Theresa May encouraged cash-strapped police forces across the country to use the private sector and outsource services.
Privatisation isn’t the answer for our police services
However, outsourcing would mean swapping short-term cash for long-term problems in our police force. We Own It was asked to submit evidence to a 2015 report by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC). The MOPAC report highlighted many risks to our police from greater privatisation, fragmenting our police services and reducing accountability.
"It is disgusting that we should have businesses trying to turn a profit out of policing," Dave Ratchford, Unison
Private companies make grand promises to save local forces money; for instance, in 2015, the for-profit company G4S claimed they could save £1 billion a year for our police forces. But this cost-cutting comes at a price.
Would you want G4S policing your community?
Security at the London 2012 Olympic Games was outsourced to G4S who promised to provide 13,000 members of security staff. This turned out to be a disaster. By the time of the Games, G4S were short on 3,000 staff members and the government was forced to deploy the military to fill in the gap. G4S were fined £20 million and several senior company bosses resigned.
Despite this security mess up, many police forces are still considering outsourcing as a solution to funding problems. In 2012, Lincolnshire Police hired G4S to employ staff for its control rooms. This resulted in five control room staff being suspended following investigations into hundreds of false 999 calls. More recently, G4S has tried to cut costs in Lincolnshire by encouraging ‘voluntary redundancies’ at a time when our police are already understaffed and overstretched.
But it’s not just G4S. There have been similar problems when police services have been outsourced to other private companies. Accenture – who have already abandoned contracts in our NHS - were employed by Police Scotland to integrate Scottish IT system networks in 2013. Last year, Police Scotland abandoned the project as it was already running nine months behind schedule and the system was found to have 12 critical errors that made it unusable. Outsourcing creates rather than resolves the problems facing our police services.
Private police forces for the rich?
As well as outsourcing existing services, government cuts to our police have led some communities to look to the private sector to provide new police forces entirely. This creates a market for policing in which those who can pay more are more protected from crime. This isn’t fair.
In 2015, Britain’s first private police force was introduced in Stoke-on-Trent, as Staffordshire Police struggled to cope with cuts of £22.9 million over five years. Homeowners who paid a weekly charge were covered by the privatised patrol service.
In Essex, people living in Frinton became concerned that police services would be overstretched after cuts meant that their nearest police station was now eight miles away. Frinton residents now pay £100 each per year to have the private security firm AGS patrol their streets.
There are now plans for London’s wealthiest neighbourhoods to get their own own private police force through crowdfunding. The service, called My Local Bobby, would patrol the streets of Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Belgravia. As in Frinton, this creates a situation where wealthier areas – often with lower crime rates – have private police services while other areas lack sufficient security.
Keep our police publicly owned
This isn’t what we want for the future of our police. We need to keep our police services properly funded and publicly owned.
Find out more by reading UNISON’s guide ‘Police privatisation and how to stop it’.
Photo used under Creative Commons licensing, thanks to Christopher Paul https://www.flickr.com/photos/trojan631/