Police cuts ‘disaster’ for national security

National security is being jeopardised by cuts to local policing, which amount to a potential disaster in the fight to stop terrorist attacks, according to one of Britain’s leading counter terrorism police officers.

Neil Basu, senior national coordinator for counter terrorism, told the Guardian that two decades of progress in neighbourhood policing were at risk and that withdrawing police on the ground would mean losing the relationships and trust that deliver crucial intelligence.

He also criticised a government decision to cut police funding to specifically fight terrorism.

Basu said: “When we don’t have those people we will become so divorced from the frontline, and the frontline of communities, that [it] will be a disaster for policing in this country.”

He said the attacks in Britain could happen again and that the threat of both Islamist and extreme rightwing attack was growing, with the two sets of extremists even feeding off each other.

Basu said that Britain could not arrest its way out of the high level of terrorist threat by building a ‘bigger and bigger [counter terrorism] machine’. The country had to build trust among communities and redouble efforts to prevent young people turning to terrorism.

He said: “That connection happens on the ground and that connection is fast disappearing in policing. All the work we’ve done over the last 20 years to put neighbourhood policing back on the map is in danger of disappearing. For me, that is a national security issue.”

Asked if the government’s funding cuts were having national security consequences, Basu said: “As the senior national coordinator for counter terrorism the ‘local to global’ thing is incredibly important for me.

“The reason we are able to do that in this country without creating shockwaves is because we are not an invading army. We don’t police by coercion, we police by consent. I don’t win that trust and confidence – it’s all the local bobbies on the street who win that trust and confidence.”

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