Labour unveils policing strategy
Labour pledged to protect the jobs of 10,000 bobbies on the beat as it claimed that Conservative cuts had allowed rapists and violent criminals to go free.
Police are "struggling to keep up" with the rise in child sexual exploitation, terrorism and online crime while public safety is being "put at risk" by a chaotic prison and probation system, the party said as it unveiled its crime and justice manifesto.
Police and crime commissioners (PCCs) would be axed to help fund the £800 million plan to guarantee neighbourhood policing across England and Wales.
A victims' law setting out rights for people affected by crime would also be introduced, the party promised.
Conservatives accused Labour of "scaremongering" and insisted crime has never been lower while Lord Stevens, a former Metropolitan Police commissioner and crossbench peer, said it was the "right plan".
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "Because of the Conservatives' decisions, neighbourhood policing - the foundation of good British policing - is at risk of disappearing, whilst increasing numbers of serious criminals are being let off the hook.
"Labour has a better plan. We will make different choices, finding savings to safeguard 10,000 officers in the next three years. We will ensure victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system with the country's first ever victims' law. And we will ensure the police have the powers they need to keep us safe, including proper controls for dangerous terror suspects."
New laws would introduce a local policing commitment that required forces to guarantee neighbourhood policing and 10,000 officers would be safeguarded for three years, the party said.
Axing the PCCs combined with charging higher fees for gun licences and requiring police forces to share services and carry out joint procurement would fund the plans, according to Labour.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "Under the Tories we've seen fewer police on the beat, longer waits for 999 calls and less justice for victims as there have been fewer arrests and prosecutions for rising crimes like violence, rape or child sex offences.
"Now they plan deeper cuts to policing in the next Parliament even though the police are already struggling to keep up with rising complex cases such as child sexual exploitation, terrorism or online crime.
"The independent police inspectorate has warned that neighbourhood policing is already being undermined. Now senior police officers across the country are warning that neighbourhood policing will be lost altogether if the Tories' extreme plans are carried out."
The manifesto will commit to improved crime prevention and the introduction of a new child protection unit to tackle sexual exploitation.
Prison reforms would see inmates spend more time working and learning while the controversial Prevent programme Labour introduced to stop radicalisation would be overhauled as part of plans to deal with the growing terror threat.
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: "Too many victims and witnesses are ignored or treated as an afterthought. Public safety is being put at risk by a prisons and probation system that is in chaos because of this Government's policies. Violence and suicides are all too commonplace in our jails, with inmates idling in their cells instead of being rehabilitated through work, education or training.
"Labour will restore confidence in our justice system by putting victims first. We will enact the country's first ever victims' law - giving victims a voice and entitlements to minimum standards of service. And we will turn prisons into places of hard work and learning, cutting re-offending so that communities are spared the blight of crime".
Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, who headed an independent commission on policing by the Labour party, said: "This is the right plan for neighbourhood policing, following the plans set out by the independent commission I had the pleasure to chair.
"It is not credible to say you can take away resources on the scale the Government are talking about without wiping out neighbourhood policing. And it doesn't show the right priorities to be spending significant sums on police and crime commissioners, nor to be ideologically opposed to the shared services and joint procurement that simply must be driven through."
Home Secretary Theresa May said the Government had increased the proportion of officers on the frontline.
She added: "These are the same tired, unfunded promises from a Labour party who tied up the police with red tape and central targets, and who have opposed everything we have done to help the police do more with less.
"People have had enough of Labour's made-up numbers and scaremongering. When we started to clear up the mess left by their legacy of debt, they warned that crime would rise. They were wrong: crime is down by more than a fifth under this Government, and has never been lower."