MODERN POLICING is far more complex today compared to the era, not even a generation ago, when most communities still had their own dedicated beat bobby.
Now the relentless rise in online crime, and increased awareness about issues like mental health, are providing immense challenges for Yorkshire’s forces at the end of a decade dominated by austerity.
Yet the very fundamental of policing – a duty to protect the public – has not changed and this is why the Government now looks to look again at the issue of police priorities and funding. It has already acknowledged that its cuts went too far, hence Boris Johnson’s commitment to restore, at the very least, police numbers to 2010 levels, but there also needs to be an understanding about how the rise in those reported missing, for whatever reason, is adding to the workload of forces – and public expectations.
In the past 12 months, the county’s forces dealt with more than 30,000 inquiries over missing people – each and every case having to be treated as, potentially, a serious crime until the individual in question has been traced. And while the overwhelming majority of cases were quickly resolved, the police know that the criticism will be vehement if they cut corners and a vulnerable person meets a tragic end because of inaction on their part.
It’s all the more reason as Catherine Hankinson, Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, explains how this issue is changing the dynamics of her constabulary’s work, that the police have the support of all agencies – and the wider public – when it comes to missing people. And it is also another important reminder, if one was needed, about the role, and responsibility, of society per se in looking out for the vulnerable, isolated and lonely – and making sure relatives, and the necessary public services, are informed of any concerns at the earliest possible opportunity.