AN MP helping out police during a night shift ended up calling 999 herself after a lone officer was surrounded after responding to an incident.
Holly Lynch, Labour MP for Halifax, was invited to spend a shift with West Yorkshire Police to see first hand the impact budget cuts have had on staffing.
After pulling over a driver who had failed to stop, PC Craig Gallant was soon surrounded by other cars which arrived on the scene in Ovenden.
Mrs Lynch said: “Within minutes the officer suddenly found himself surrounded by other vehicles which had arrived, with people becoming increasingly aggressive and intimidating.
“I was so concerned for his safety that I rang 999 myself to stress the urgency with which he needed back-up.”
She said that while PC Gallant clearly has a lot of experience in dealing with difficult situations it was clear during the shift she shadowed on Friday night that there are many dangers in working alone.
The Police Federation has said that five years of budget cuts has left West Yorkshire Police £160m worse off with 1,200 fewer staff.
This means that more and more front-line officers must attend call-outs on their own.
She said: “Officers do a tough job, and while most will tell you they understand that there are risks, I am telling the Government that to keep sending officers in to dangerous situations without support is unacceptable.”
Additional pressure is also placed on the police to deal with vulnerable young people and adults. She said: “At a time when local authority budgets have been slashed and NHS funding has been squeezed, there is a danger that vulnerable people are not getting the most appropriate care.
“This is becoming a social problem which is increasingly falling to the police to deal with due to the inability of other agencies to take a lead.
“With such diminished numbers in our front line ranks, I was able to see during my time with West Yorkshire Police, the difficulties of having to constantly divert crews into locating missing people, undermining neighbourhood policing work and eating into the crews available for 999 calls.”
Chief Inspector Nick Smart, who is chair of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, said: “Unfortunately it takes something seismic for certain politicians to refocus their minds on policing and on the fact that you can’t just keep cutting and cutting and expect nothing to happen.”