Thu, 15 Nov 2018
The Federation’s Operational Policing Lead Simon Kempton outlines the issues affecting the police service.
As the great Brexit behemoth rumbles on, I wish I had more to report on what it means for policing.
We keep being told that we are inching closer and closer to the finish line, but we are still waiting for clarity over the Government’s draft exit deal for ‘divorce’ with the rest of Europe.
And if anything, the last 24 hours which - at the time of writing - have seen the resignation of four Ministers and two MPs from Government, make the policing position even more precarious as the Government still has to try to get the draft deal through Parliament. In a nutshell, until we know what we are planning for, we cannot plan for it.
None of us has a crystal ball, so with Brexit now little over four months away, we really have no idea what the policing landscape will look like post 29 March 2019.
The two organisations tasked with doing this planning – the National Police Coordination Centre (NPoCC) and the Met’s Brexit unit - are doing their best to plan for an unprecedented event, but must be given the information they need to do their job.
Crime is no respecter of borders but we are still no closer to understanding what the Brexit process will mean for the current EU data sharing and co-operation tools, such as the European Arrest Warrant and Schengen Information System.
We know that 70 per cent of transient organised crime groups operate in more than three different countries, but without these data sharing methods we will no longer be able to share real-time alerts for wanted persons, including serious criminals.
The fight against terrorism could also be severely hampered with our ability to map and track terrorist and criminal networks across Europe reduced.
It’s also difficult to gauge what the public reaction will be, with so much volatility at the heart of the Brexit negotiations.
As a democracy, it is important to allow people their right to peaceful protest. But when those protests turn to disorder, it becomes problematic.
Without scaremongering, immediately following the referendum we saw a marked increase in hate crimes, particularly levelled against Eastern Europeans. Social media was also rife with emotive language about ‘foreigners’ and ‘immigrants’.
We saw a rise in populism – and only this week a Midlands-based couple, who named their baby son Adolf Hitler – were convicted of being members of an illegal neo-Nazi terrorist group.
Although violent disorder is a worst case scenario, the police service would be mad not to consider preparations for Brexit-induced protests, remembering how 15,000 officers had to be deployed to London to quell the 2011 riots. These spread like wildfire, erupting not just in the capital but also in the metropolitan centres of Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester.
With a police service that is now nearly 22,000 officers down on its 2010 headcount, a repeat of those events would challenge our severely-stretched forces.
At this stage there is no intelligence to suggest there will be an increase in crime or disorder as a result of a Brexit deal or no deal.
But there remains yet another threat to the ever-thinning blue line: we still have no idea either whether European citizens who are currently serving police officers will be able to continue in those roles.
No-one appears to know the answer to this, but if they did lose their jobs as a result of Brexit, for the Met alone it could mean the loss of around 1,000 officers. I have asked the Home Office for clarification on this point and await their answer which will give the certainty and reassurance to my colleagues who this could affect.
The safety and security of its citizens is the highest duty of any government, and I ask our own to recognise the difficult situation that the police service are in, by providing the clarity we need to ensure the transition through the Brexit process is as safe and orderly as possible for everybody.
There is just too much at stake to see Brexit preparations being hatched in the last chance saloon.
© 2018 Police Federation of England & Wales