Police chief’s warning over budget cuts ‘Armageddon’

September 2, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A retiring chief constable has warned that the coalition government’s savage spending cuts will cause ”Armageddon” in the fight against crime.

Julie Spence, 54, chief constable of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, said the cutbacks are the ”biggest challenge to policing” since she joined the service in 1978.

She revealed that just 32 per cent of calls received by the force now involve ‘real’ crime – the majority are for administrative issues or errands.

Chief Con Spence predicted that a new agency – largely based online – will be needed to deal with this rising tide of non-emergency work, allowing the police to become ”purely a 999 service”.

But she warned that ”slashing and burning” police budgets is a ”false economy” which will unravel years of crimefighting progress.

The outspoken officer is stepping down this Sunday after a glittering 32-year career in the force.

She said: ”The proposed spending cuts are the biggest challenge to policing that I have seen in 32 years.

”Politicians need to listen to us and what we are saying before they start slashing and burning.

”British policing is at its best now and we have a much better understanding of crime but that has taken years to build up.

”We are likely to lose some of that with the spending cuts and then we will have to pour even more resources into building it back up.  It’s a false economy.

”Financial experts here say the force will be able to cope for year one and maybe year two but then it will become really hard.

”We will start to see cracks appear in the service we can deliver.  The proposed 40 per cent cuts are going to be Armageddon.”

Chief Con Spence’s police career began in 1978 when she joined Avon and Somerset Constabulary after a short spell in teaching. She became acting chief constable in June 2005.

She sits on the Association of Chief Police Officers’ (ACPO) cabinet and is also President of the British Association for Women in Policing.

During her five-year stint as chief constable of Cambridge Constabulary courted controversy by blaming immigrants for a rise in knife crime.

And she refused to back down on her claims yesterday (Thurs) by saying that a
dramatic rise in the need for interpreters has strained police resources.

Chief Con Spence added: ”The thin blue line is going to become much thinner.  Just one third of our calls are concerned with what we would class as crimes, for example burglaries.

”In the future I see policing going online and becoming purely a 999 service.

”In terms of migration, we have used more interpreters last year than in any year since 2004.

”We have been wrestling with languages since it all started in 2004.”

Chief Con Spence, who received an OBE in 2006 for championing the role of women in the force, is stepping down from her job to spend more time with her husband.

Her deputy chief constable John Feavyour explained that just 34 per cent of calls received by his force concern crimes.

He said: ”To put things into perspective, for the last six months 15 per cent of calls were crimes and 19 per cent were ASBOs.

”That makes 34 per cent of what the public views as crime.  Another 30 per cent was spent on incidents such as sudden deaths that you have to send officers out to.

”The public need to understand what it is that we actually do and that just 34 per cent of calls we deal with have been crimes.

”23 per cent of calls were just administration calls – every officer is working to capacity we are really stretched and busy all the time.

”Last weekend we dealt with 2,500 calls.”

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