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  • J.F. Burgess

Cops like Us BBC Two documentary

A moving, gritty insight into the effects Tory government cuts have had on policing rising levels of violent crime in Stoke-on-Trent: the town where my DI Tom Blake Murder Squad Series is set

Following officers from Staffordshire’s overstretched police force as they talk candidly about the frustrations of being on the beat in one of the UK’s most deprived cities - Stoke-on-Trent. In recent years, Staffordshire police have lost more than a quarter of their officers due to budget cuts.

Filmed over six months, this series follows emergency response teams trying to combat a backlog of cases and a rise in gang culture, hate crime and domestic violence. Searingly honest interviews from the chief constable and his team reveal how they manage their limited resources and how they feel about the decisions they have to make.

The city of Stoke-on-Trent is made up of six small towns. It is known as ‘the potteries’ – a nod towards the world-famous pottery manufacture that once thrived there. Pottery made in Stoke-on-Trent was once shipped all over the world for use in the finest restaurants. But in the 1980s, much of the manufacturing closed down, many pot banks were shut and workers laid off. Although the employment rate in Stoke is now on the rise, it is a city still struggling with the loss of its iconic industry.

In recent years, Stoke City Council has reduced mental health and welfare services. More and more people are finding themselves in crisis – and ultimately at the end of 999 calls to the police. The police officers have also seen the numbers of suicide attempts they attend rise. It used to be a handful a year - now, it is a regular occurrence.

Staffordshire Police were not immune to the UK-wide cuts, and they have lost 594 response officers. Some police stations have been sold off, and many are now closed to the public. The number of support staff, from administration workers to cleaners, has also been reduced. But the Staffordshire Police officers are a resilient bunch – and despite the challenging circumstances, they work hard to keep the population safe in the face of a variety of crimes. No two 999 calls are ever the same, and it takes grit and a sense of humour to police the community.

The officers also have to deal with both the immediate impact and after-effects of crime in the areas they serve. After a stabbing in the suburb of Norton, one of the biggest jobs the police and local councillors face is reassuring the nervous community back to a sense of normality.

With reduced numbers the new norm, Staffordshire Police are looking to use their limited resources in ever more efficient ways. They are planning on moving the response team out of their run-down base at Hanley Police station and into the fire station across the road – fully aware that they will need to change their habits when they move into the immaculately-kept fire station.

Stoke-on-Trent, and the police force who serve it, is in a time of transition. This series explores the highs and lows of working in one of the most demanding and challenging jobs in the UK.

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