Today’s columnist, Neil Bowles: It all boils down to money

Home Secretary Theresa May speaking at the annual Police Federation Conference. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Home Secretary Theresa May speaking at the annual Police Federation Conference. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
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Neighbourhood policing has been a great success in South Yorkshire.

Teams of police officers, community support officers and special constables have worked with the local authority and other partners to solve long-term issues in our communities.

Officers spent time getting to know the public and key people in the local area.

The more time officers spent in the neighbourhood, the more they were trusted, valued and accepted.

The relationships built up mean that the public would tell an officer they know a snippet of information that they would not provide in any other way.

This information was fed into our systems and was often the last piece of a jigsaw that would enable us to prevent a crime from being committed, or solve one that had been.

The neighbourhood policing teams and the public trust they generated was one reason we did not see rioting in 2011, which other urban forces experienced.

Community policing and the intelligence produced is also critical in the fight against terrorism.

This was stressed by Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the most senior officer in charge of counter terrorism, in a speech to the Police Federation conference in Bournemouth in May.

South Yorkshire police has to drastically cut its budget and remodel uniform policing.

Doncaster and Barnsley have gone live, with Rotherham and Sheffield next. We have combined the police officers on response with those on neighbourhood into one big team.

Will this work? Time will tell.

Body Worn Video (BWV), where operational uniform officers wear a camera on their chest to record their interactions with the public, has huge support across the policing spectrum, not least from the Police Federation.

We know that in most cases BWV will support the officers’ evidence, leading to more guilty pleas and swifter justice, less complaints and of course if people know they are being filmed, their behaviour improves.

The cameras are cheap but the stumbling block is the cost of retention of the digital material.

South Yorkshire police have not got the money to invest in this scheme.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May promised an extra £15 million to the health services to improve provision of mental health crisis services.

The current law allows an officer to detain a person appearing to suffer a mental disorder in a public place, for the protection of themselves or others and take them to a place of safety.

More often than not the place of safety was a police station cell, which are staffed 24/7, whereas the crisis units in hospitals could not cope.

Why should people suffering from an illness or mental condition be treated as a criminal?

The police do not want this, but again it’s down to money.

Conference was told of the increase in women being convicted of drink-driving.

The number of men caught over the limit has plummeted in the last 15 years, whereas the figures for women have only dropped slightly.

One woman, when asked why she drove after a drink, said: “They only stop the lads!”

There is no excuse, do not drink and drive.

* Neil Bowles, South Yorkshire Police Federation chairman