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US chief in warning on police cuts

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A top American officer said UK police will have to be more creative in tackling crime in light of budget cuts

UK police will have to tackle both serious organised crime and anti-social behaviour despite facing 20% budget cuts if they are to improve public confidence, a top US officer has claimed.

Bill Bratton, a former chief of police for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and an ex-New York City police commissioner, backed policing minister Nick Herbert’s view that there is no simple link between police numbers and crime levels.

“It’s not so much the number of police that you have – you’d love to have a tonne of them – but what you do with them, how they are used,” he said.

“The challenge I think is going to be, with this reduced workforce, to broaden the policing field from focus and measurement of serious crime to more focused activity in dealing with the so-called minor crime. Over time, it’ll be interesting to see how that works out. It’s going to require creativity.”

Giving evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Committee inquiry on policing, he said: “Any police strategy that does not simultaneously address serious crime and what the average person’s experience is every day that’s negative is doomed to failure.”

Mr Bratton said a greater focus on anti-social behaviour is needed. “If you don’t weed it out, that garden’s going to be destroyed,” he said. “If you don’t deal with those minor crimes, it will grow.”

Speaking later at the Policy Exchange think-tank, he added: “I know how difficult it can be to challenge old ways of thinking and working.

“But with the right leadership, motivated to create better rules and practices, it is possible to create transformational change in record time despite tight budgets, limited resources, motivational hurdles, and sometimes powerful opposition.”

He went on: “In terms of creating safer communities, cops count and policing does matter. But successful policing is not only about making the right investments in law enforcement. You cannot spend your way to a safer community and it isn’t about how much money you spend, or how many staff you have on the payroll.

“It’s about what you do with your most valuable asset – the sworn officer. When faced with high crime and tight budgets, good police chiefs take responsibility and can work with the resources they’re given to make a significant difference.”

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