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Police are falling behind the curve of rapidly changing criminality, policing the crimes of today with the methods of yesterday and are not well enough prepared for the crimes of the future. That is the verdict of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in their Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy (‘PEEL’) assessment.
HMIC found that the police are too focused on dealing with crimes they are used to dealing with, rather than the crimes that victims experience or report. The inspectors did say that they found that there was much that the police are doing well. For the 243-page report in full visit the HMIC website.
The Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor said: “Police officers are a dedicated and brave group of men and women with an unfailing commitment to public service. But the force that many of them joined bears little resemblance to the force that is required now and in the future. The capabilities of the police have fallen behind the crime threat in recent years and these need to improve if the police are to get ahead of the curve of rapidly changing criminality.
“The landscape in which police forces are operating has changed beyond recognition in recent years and continues to evolve quickly. Unreported crime such as cyber crime and crimes against vulnerable people, the most disturbing of which is child sexual exploitation, is not an emerging threat: it is here now. The police need to learn the lessons from the past and improve the prevention and detection of such crimes. The response to child sexual exploitation in particular will require strong leadership to overcome the cultural and institutional barriers that have hampered the response so far.
“Almost all crime has a technological aspect to it now and the capability to deal with this cannot therefore be the prerogative of the specialist officer; every officer needs an understanding of it and the capabilities to deal with the cyber crime they encounter.
“My concerns about police capability should be seen in the context of the fact that our assessment found that police forces perform well in many other respects: we were particularly impressed by the way that many of them are: tackling anti-social behaviour; preventing crime; and responding to financial cuts.
“However, the quality of leadership, supervision and management at all levels, will need to adapt to the new environment if the police are to meet the challenges they face in improving capabilities, meeting the needs of victims and becoming ever more efficient and effective.”
Public perceptions of the police remain generally good, says the inspectorate, but the services received by the public and by victims can vary considerably; professional standards departments and anti-corruption units are generally good at dealing with the information they receive, but improvements are needed to improve the way in which threats and risks of corruption are identified and acted upon.
ACPO President Sir Hugh Orde said: “The police service is always reforming, learning from the past and adapting to the threats of the day.
“The landscape in which we police has changed radically in recent years but HMIC finds that police have so far risen substantially to the challenge. How we continue to evolve at a local, national and international level to keep people safe is at the forefront of police leaders’ minds.
“Police chiefs have made fundamental changes in their forces to protect the frontline and continue to cut crime and deal with 20 percent cuts to their budgets. We’ve improved our response to anti-social behaviour, got better at preventing crime in the first place and worked hard to make the police service more representative of the communities we serve.
“We are continuing to make changes at pace. Adapting to cyber-crime is a challenge but we are working transform our response by recruiting people with specialist skills and training our own staff to prevent and detect those who seek to use technology to harm or steal from us. We’ve invested in specialist investigators for sexual abuse and changed the way we work with other agencies to protect children; as a result of increased victim confidence in the police response we’ve seen an unprecedented increase in reports of sexual offences. We are working to balance an increase in major historic investigations with dealing with the issues of today and tomorrow.
“We know there’s more to do and we are committed to doing it, working with the College of Policing, the Home Office and HMIC.”
And Steve White, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “We have been warning there are issues around what the service can provide against cuts to funding and police numbers. Although we are pleased that the majority of forces are performing well, we know that officers are struggling to provide the service they believe the public deserve.
“The Federation recently carried out a survey of around 4,000 detectives and found 61 per cent felt they were not able to provide the service victims needed, mostly due to workload pressures. We have also pressed the need for specific training to get officers up-to-speed on issues like cyber-crime, which often fall under the radar. Crimes against vulnerable people and child exploitation should also be at the top of the police agenda. We have highlighted that specific units that deal with these issues are being disbanded, alongside the erosion of neighbourhood policing, as police numbers are put under increasing pressure.”