What are the police for? Re-thinking policing post-austerity

Andrew Millie

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In the context of the global financial crisis and after inheriting a record budget deficit, the British Coalition Government decided in 2010 that the best way forward was a programme of austerity. What followed were major cuts to public expenditure, including a substantial reduction in police budgets. Whether this was the right decision is beyond the remit of this chapter. However, the effect on the police has been substantial. The police in Britain had enjoyed a sustained period of growth – both in terms of police numbers and increased responsibilities undertaken by police personnel – despite increases in competition and falls in recorded crime (Millie and Bullock, 2012; Millie, 2013). This was to change. In Scotland cuts came through the merging of all eight forces into a single Police Service of Scotland (Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012). With the 2010 Comprehensive spending Review (HM Treasury, 2010) government funding of the police in England and Wales was reduced by 20 per cent through to 2015. The scale of these cuts was unprecedented and has required police services to reconsider their priorities. At the same time the police have had to deal with major change in governance structures with the introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners in November 2012 – albeit following an election where only 15 per cent of the electorate turned up to vote (Rogers and Burn-Murdoch, 2012). The new policing landscape of fewer resources and (assumed) greater democratic accountability has generated a lot of uncertainty among serving police officers and questions over what form policing will take post-austerity. In this context the question of what the police are for becomes pertinent and is the focus for this chapter.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Future of Policing
EditorsJennifer M. Brown
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages522
ISBN (Print)9780415821629
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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