Staff PicksPolice: The Prime Targets of Austerity

Police: The Prime Targets of Austerity


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by Ellie Tivey

It’s long been a trope of left-leaning politics in the UK to criticise austerity and cuts to public funding. This occurrence is usually met with indignant criticisms of over-idealism and a move towards the dreaded ‘socialism’. When assessing the landscape of the past month’s headlines, however, it is clear that the true consequences and impacts of austerity have been displayed in all their ugly, naked truth. And not only have these outcomes come to the fore, but the foremost victims of austerity have become increasingly clear.

Public expenditure on the police force has dropped 18% since 2010.  This continual decrease has resulted in a police culture based on prioritisation over need. They have been forced to focus their ever-diminishing resources on high crime such as terrorism at the expense of crimes considered to be of ‘lower impact’. While this prioritisatory approach has its benefits in maintaining the safety of the country as a whole, it is at the cost of individual safety and liberty of the youth, minorities, and women.

This comment in last week’s Question Time about Knife Crime calling for a ‘particular breed’ of human being ‘be dealt with like the cancer they are and exterminated’.

This discriminatory impact was presented clearly in British media over the last couple of weeks as London’s knife crime crisis took center stage once more. With Christmas still over a month away, knife crime in London is already at its highest since 2010 – with the majority of those involved, both victims and perpetrators, being young people. In a desperate situation such as this, discriminatory tactics such as stop and search thrive. And 2016 to 2017 saw black people being eight times more likely to be stopped than their white counterparts. London’s knife crime has become a microcosm of the disproportionately felt consequences of public cuts. Both young people and the black community are bearing the burden of responsibility and accountability for the crisis. But it is an irrefutable fact that cuts to police funding and the general hopelessness instilled in young people due to these cuts are a key component.

One prevailing voice that emerged following the revelation of the severity of London knife crime was that of senior police chief Sara Thornton. Though she did not aim criticism for the government for crippling her area of the public sector, she did not label cuts as the reason crime is on the up, she claimed that the police had to recognise less misogyny based hate crimes to free up resources. And all of a sudden, feminism too became a scapegoat for this government’s overzealous austerity.

Austerity doesn’t look like its going to end anytime soon, will the changes in the government and the focus on Brexit and other issues mean that policing if effected more than ever?

Ellie is a recent graduate in History and Politics from the University of Manchester. Originally from Bristol, Ellie moved to Manchester in 2015 and has no intention of leaving any time soon. She spent the final year of her degree as Editor of the university’s only historical publication, The Manchester Historian, and continues to present/produce weekly news videos for Manchester start up, Student Inspire Network. She has dreams of becoming a journalist and hopes to embed her passion for politics and popular culture in all of her work.

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