“These cuts are not just to the bone, they are now beyond the bone.”
These were the shocking, but not surprising words spoken to me late last Friday night by a police officer on shift as I joined the patrol with north east officers for the night.
As part of my regular visits to our emergency services, I have, for some time, wanted to join Northumbria Police officers across the north east.
And, fortuitously, my opportunity came just days after a scathing open letter from the force’s chief constable exposing the reality of £142m in government cuts.
I would strongly urge other politicians and elected officials to take part in the vital, eye-opening experience of joining officers on the frontline.
I would especially extend the invite to those in government who have slashed Northumbria’s funding and resources, with a loss of more than 21,000 police officers nationwide.
The ignorance to the impact this has on our frontline police officers could soon be cured when they see the real picture of what is happening and the effort being made to protect local residents and police the streets, despite deep and damaging cuts.
I was accompanied by Sgt Rebecca Felton, who ably escorted me on patrol and also allowed me to visit an emergency call centre and the only available custody suites in Wallsend.
Seeing first-hand the effort put into keeping our communities safe gives you not only greater respect for those putting themselves in harm’s way, it also makes you truly understand why we must increase investment, reverse the cuts, immediately recruit 10,000 new officers and scrap the pay cap for all public sector workers, as per the Labour Party’s plans for government.
I would like to pass on my heartfelt thanks to all those who showed me around and took the time to explain to me their very personal experiences of policing under austerity.