To be honest, it should never have happened once, never mind again.
Police in Gloucester were forced to withdraw from a large-scale brawl at a takeaway because they did not have sufficient officers available to deal with the situation. I cannot recall a single occasion where this has happened before.
At the risk of stating the obvious this is completely unacceptable. There are two (at least) important considerations at play here.
Firstly, it is vital that there are sufficient Police Officers available at any time to deal with any spontaneous outbreak of disorder, crimes, terrorist activity etc. As a Member of the Public you are entitled to feel protected against almost any scenario. Public Safety and the Prevention of Crime are two of the highest priorities for Policing. If the Police cannot restore Public Tranquility, or worse, have to withdraw without resolving the problem, something has gone seriously wrong.
Secondly, and equally important, there should be sufficient officers available that they can look after and protect each other. If the officers that turn up at the scene initially are neutralised by suffering violence they might as well never have come in the first place. The initial officer(s) attending have to assess the situation and be able to call upon the appropriate number of officers to contain the problem, together with other necessary resources e.g. Public Order trained officers, Police Dogs, Police Horses or a Helicopter.
In response to an item in the Mail on Sunday relating to lack of officers on Nights, Chief Constable Simon Cole issued this statement
In response to a Mail on Sunday investigation revealing the number of officers on duty at nights, Chiefs stress that these shifts are considered as part of wider risk assessments, and officers are supported by a range of partners and staff.
National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead on Local Policing, Chief Constable Simon Cole said:
“Policing is a 24/7 responsibility. The night time economy presents Chief Constables and officers with real challenges policing both large rural areas as well as the thriving and busy environments in towns and cities.
“Police forces make their decisions about night shift staffing in line with dynamic risk assessments which may vary greatly between forces, and sometimes even within a single force. Officers on night shifts are always supported by police community support officers, force staff, special constables, partner agencies and volunteers. They also receive the appropriate equipment and training to ensure that they are not put in a situation without the support that they need.
“In a world where there are 19,000 fewer police officers, all forces have to deal with the realities of their budget when making operational decisions, with the sole intention of allocating officers and staff to most effectively protect the public.”
I can only hope that all of these “Dynamic Risk Assessments” are available and up to date, as I suspect some FOI fans might be asking to see them.
In the good old days we were frequently being told “You don’t get paid for what you do, you get paid for what you might have to do”. Likewise, sufficient resources should be available 24/7 for what might happen.
This was always more or less the case. Police got caught out occasionally and had to shout for help from an adjoining Division or by way of Mutual Aid if it was sufficiently serious. One way or another the problem was sorted.
Recently we have had insufficient officers to close down an illegal ‘Rave’ and now, far worse, Police having to withdraw from a large brawl at a takeaway.
It is incumbent upon Force senior management to ensure that sufficient officers are on duty, or available nearby, to reasonably cope with most, if not all, scenarios. It should NOT be a requirement that the number of officers on duty, or available, should fit a particular budget.
If this can’t be done then I would urge very member of the National Police Chiefs Council to bring this to the urgent attention of the Home Secretary.
Alongside this, I would urge every Member of the Public who fears that there are insufficient Police on duty at ANY time of the day, to write to their MP outlining their concerns and asking him/her to raise their concerns with the Home Secretary.
Police and Crime Commissioners everywhere need to sit up and take notice, and work out how they can stop this from ever happening again.