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Police assessment

There’s a ‘mismatch’ between funding for the police, and public expectations; between public needs and police capacity and capability, according to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary in the Annual Assessment of Policing in England and Wales 2018.

In his annual assessment of policing in England and Wales, Sir Thomas Winsor said most police forces were performing well, and praised the police for their integrity and bravery. He called on leaders in police forces and institutions to make bold and long-term decisions. In some important respects, he wrote, ‘the wider criminal justice system is dysfunctional and defective. In particular, the system lets down children and other vulnerable people. As well as often being victims of crime, they may become trapped in a cycle of offending, conviction, punishment, release and re-offending. The police are getting better at identifying and protecting some vulnerable victims. But, generally, there is not enough emphasis on prevention and early intervention to break the cycle.’

As for the UK’s 43 force structure, he suggests there’s ‘a pressing need to develop an effective and efficient single system of law enforcement, with clear local, regional and national components’.

He concluded: “I believe that some profound and far-reaching aspects of police reform are called for. For these reforms to take place, leaders in central government, PCCs and chief constables will all need to make bold, long-term decisions. If they don’t, the windspeed of police reform will fall to a flutter, leaving the police service increasingly unable to meet the demands it faces. The inevitable legacy of such an approach would be unacceptable compromises in both the quality of service the police can offer the public and the level of public safety and security the police can uphold.

“But if the reforms I have set out in my assessment are carried out, competently, comprehensively and with resolve, they will secure major improvements in police effectiveness and efficiency. The widening gap … between the public’s needs and the police’s capacity and capability, will begin to narrow. And the police service will be better able to adapt to face the demands of today and tomorrow, to the great benefit of all of us.”

Comments

Simon Hall, CEO of the mobile policing app PoliceBox says: “A mobile and connected police force where data is seamlessly shared between officers, forces and all other related agencies can be achieved without scrapping the 43-force structure or existing ICT systems. With crime increasingly crossing county and even national borders, every force and every officer increasingly needs access to national databases to do their job effectively, yet most of them can barely access their own force’s databases when out of the station, let alone national ones. While it may be easy to blame the 43-force structure for the ‘data hoarding’ that occurs between forces, we don’t need to scrap the entire structure of UK policing to address this problem.”

For the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), Chair Martin Hewitt said: “This is a broad report that raises many of the significant issues facing the police service today. It recognises the hard work and dedication of our officers but also the enormous strain they are under and the gap between our resources and the mission we’re asked to fulfil. The findings make clear that we can only deliver effective justice if all of the criminal justice system works together. To do that, all those with a part to play must be properly resourced, and as the report points out, that isn’t currently the case. Sir Tom makes a compelling case for long term sustainable funding.

“The rise in violent crime has been well documented but we’re also seeing an increase in the volume of other crimes and non-crime incidents like mental ill health. That pressure, coupled with the increase in complex, time and resource consuming investigations, is having a tangible impact on the wellbeing of our staff and we’re working hard to support them.

“I recognise the points made about making the police service work better on cross force threats. We need to build our ability to operate at a local, regional and national level whilst keeping accountability with the public we seek to protect.”

For the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) Lead for Performance, Matthew Scott said the reduction in youth services and the significant rise in school exclusions need to be addressed. He said: “Police and Crime Commissioners advocate the necessity for multiyear financial settlements for all forces to allow for effective short- and medium-term financial planning. PCCs have consistently made this case to government.”

Picture by Mark Rowe; Met Police pair on patrol, Church House, Westminster, spring 2019.


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