Cuts to frontline policing are “inevitable”, the chief officers leader has warned.
Association of Chief Police Officers president Sir Hugh Orde told of his “continual frustration” that the current coalition Government had “not listened to the need from the service to reorganise”.
He also spoke of the choices facing police chiefs raising the prospect of less visible policing.
Speaking on Sky News’ Murnaghan programme, he said: “It’s inevitable that the cuts would impact on policing, what chief officers have had to do is make choices.”
He added: “But something has to give and you will see visibility for example starting to…people will be less visible.
“It doesn’t mean they are not out there, it means that routine patrols will be seen as less evident.”
Sir Hugh said crime was at a historic low and some comfort could be taken in that, but crime was changing, for example with the terrorist threat, which he said had had a “massive impact” on policing and was “taking more effort”.
He said: “Well there’s no question that if you take 34,000 people out of policing, 16,000 officers, there is inevitably an impact.
“We’re looking at another 5% this year, and another 5% probably the year after. So chiefs are working flat out to minimise the impact on front line services, but the stark reality now is inevitably there will be cuts in front line services.”
He added: “Serious crime is starting to increase. Rape which takes a lot of resource quite properly, is increasing, it’s up quite substantially. Now we think that’s people having confidence in policing, but we have to respond to that, we have to change our structure to deliver that.”
Asked by Dermot Murnaghan if the police’s ability to deal with any potential threat was compromised by the cuts, he responded: “Well we are absolutely determined to deliver an effective service, against what is now a rising threat, against the very people who are protecting citizens themselves.”
He stressed: “The public need to be absolutely clear that police officers will still respond. We are not stepping back, the service has never stepped back from that sort of threat and our officers continue to deliver that work.
“But terrorism itself is changing, the threats from people who are not known to us, the people who self-radicalise. Who are radicalised coming back from the Jihad in other countries.
“That’s a very different threat to the one we faced in Northern Ireland over many years.”
On the relationship with the political world, he said: “Politics are a matter for politicians. Policing in this country is fiercely independent and rightly so. We make judgements and we say what we need to say as a professional organisation.”
Speaking about relations with Theresa May, he said: “In this Government, I have not met the Home Secretary in the way one would meet in previous governments. Different governments deal with policing differently.
“This Government had a very clear view on policing when it came in and it has driven that process through, sometimes regardless of what the police view is, sometimes with consultation. It’s been different in different areas.”
He went on: “One thing that my continual frustration has been, however, is this Government, and indeed the last government, has not listened to the need from the service to reorganise. We have 44 forces, a structure designed before colour television in the 1960s.”
He added: “We have a force structure which is not right and we can make substantial changes, I think, and become more efficient if only the Government listened to that and had a proper review of the force structure.”
Neighbourhood policing, he argued, “remains at the centre of our model”.
He added he was “convinced” that with a different force structure like Scotland which had moved to one force from eight, policing would be “more efficient and more effective”.