Are cuts to community policing making it harder to prevent terrorism?

Government cuts to community policing have made it harder to prevent terror attacks, at least according to Ed Davey, the Shadow Home Secretary, as stated in an interview on C4 News (Sunday 17th Sept 2017).

Ed Davey MP
Ed Davey MP: ‘cuts to community policing are making it harder to prevent terrorism’

Robert Quick, Britain’s former counter-terrorism chief agrees. Back in June he said “Counter-terrorism funding is ring fenced but cuts to the general policing budget has impacted on neighbourhood policing teams in many parts of the country including London.” (1)

Quick, along with a whole range of other people working in anti-terrorism argue that funding has been moved towards more ‘reactive policing’ (such as armed police units) and away from community policing, so policing has become more ‘reactive’ and less ‘preventative’.

The reduction in community policing has reduced the capacity of the police to work in communities building relationships and trust to in turn generate community-based intelligence about persons of concern.

Another factor which prevents the police from ‘preventing terrorism’ is that, as other public services have been cut, demands on police have increased as they have to spend more time dealing with those with mental health problems.

Relevance to A level Sociology

Theoretically, what’s being discussed here are criticisms of the move away from Left to Right Realist policies of policing.

Methodologically, it’s worth noting that it’s difficult to assess the impact of community policing on preventing terrorism – because it is so intangible: how can we ever actually MEASURE and prove that ‘increased trust’ between local communities and ‘police’ result in information which in turn prevents a terror attack?

Intuitively I agree with the idea that community policing is the most effective prevention strategy, but is it possible to move from intuition to actual fact in this case?

Finally, it’s highly likely that David Garland’s theory of popular punitiveness is at work here – increasing funding to armed police units is a very visible strategy which makes the government look like they’re doing something to ‘prevent terrorism’, which is likely to increase their popularity, whereas if they were to increase funding to community policing, this isn’t as visible, and so has no ‘political purpose’, even if it is more effective….

Armed Police UK.jpg
Armed Police – A visible but ineffective means of preventing terrorism?


(1) Guardian article (June 2017)

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