Sometimes, being an MP enables you to do things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to. On Friday night I was privileged to spend a 12-hour shift with a team of Glossop based High Peak Police Officers as they searched for missing people, tackled anti-social behaviour and dealt with criminal damage.
For them, it was an ordinary Friday night, but for me it was an opportunity to see for myself the challenges of policing High Peak.
The main challenge is the workload. Derbyshire has 411 fewer police officers (19% less) than 8 years ago following funding cuts of over 20%, so there are fewer officers across High Peak. And although High Peak is still one of the safest areas to live – crime is increasing, as it is across Derbyshire and the rest of the UK. In High Peak there were 37 crimes per thousand people in 2014/15, compared to 42 in 2016/17.
So our police officers are more stretched, especially as many criminals seek to make crimes harder to investigate by crossing county lines.
Our geography is another challenge. With Chapel and New Mills police stations having closed, teams are concentrated in Glossop and Buxton, which enables them to share information and co-ordinate their actions better, but leaves large distances to be covered, and a lot of police time on the road.
My experience with our officers will help me to make the case for better funding for our police. I am appalled that after seven successive years of cuts to Derbyshire’s funding, this year’s Police Support Grant from government was exactly the same as last year’s.
Rising inflation and the very well-deserved 2% pay rise (funded by local forces) means this is equivalent to yet another cut; which is why I could not support the funding settlement. The only additional money for Derbyshire’s police will come from a small part of the extra Council Tax, which many people in High Peak will struggle to pay.
I also found some practical ways I can assist our police. In my previous job I set up a ‘Freedom from Fear’ campaign to support retail staff against violence and abuse, I was appalled to see some national companies leaving staff working alone in High Peak at nights and vulnerable to anti-social behaviour, needing police support. That isn’t fair on the staff or the police and I am writing to those companies to ask them to support their staff better.
Some companies also need to make sure their CCTV cameras are able to produce evidence to help the police identify suspects as soon as possible.
And we can all help our police by making sure that our house number or name is clearly displayed so they can see it from the road at night – officers say it would really help them to respond quicker.
It wasn’t everyone’s idea of a great night out, but I thoroughly enjoyed my shift, and left full of admiration for the commitment, common sense and caring attitude of our police whom I will support as best as I can.