‘Red tape tying up our police’ – Redbridge councillor on police patrol

Cllr Khayer Chowdhry outside Ilford police station

Cllr Khayer Chowdhry outside Ilford police station - Credit: Archant

A councillor who joined undercover police for a night’s work has said he feels sorry for the borough’s “overworked, overwhelmed and understaffed” officers.

Ilford Lane action day - enforcement officers from all different departments such as street cleaning

Ilford Lane action day - enforcement officers from all different departments such as street cleaning, planning, trading standards etc, joining together for a blitz of Ilford Lane, an area known for issues such as prostitution. - Credit: Archant

Cllr Khayer Chowdhury (Lab, Valentines) joined police on patrol in an unmarked car in Ilford Lane on Saturday for an insight into the challenges they face.

Speaking to the Recorder after his shift, Cllr Chowdhury paid tribute to hard-working police but said backroom cuts had forced more frontline officers to spend hours doing paperwork.

“I feel sorry for them,” he said.

“The police can’t come out and say they are in crisis and they can’t cope, but I can say that.

“I must have spoken to about 60 officers and every single one turned around and said we need more officers. That’s all they kept saying to me.”

Cllr Chowdhury claimed there were “just over a dozen” frontline officers on duty on Saturday night to cover the whole borough.

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“This is a borough of 286,000 people,” he said. “What if there was a big public order incident and we needed more than 12 officers?”

Cllr Chowdhury said the two officers he was shadowing made an arrest at around 7pm and were still completing paperwork at 1am when he fihished.

“Because so many backroom administrative staff have been cut, frontline officers are now having to do those paperwork roles,” he said.

“The impression I got was if somebody is committing an offence, officers are now less likely to arrest them and just give them a slap on the wrist. They are so overwhelmed and understaffed.”

Last month borough commander Det Ch Supt Sue Williams insisted frontline policing would stay the same despite cuts as “it is what the public wants”.

“I think [policing] will look and feel very different to what it looks now,” she said.

“We are resigned to the fact we are not a protected service.”