Policing requires root and branch reform if it is to tackle the crisis of public confidence according to the first independent review of the police service for decades.
The Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales, chaired by Sir Michael Barber and carried out by the Police Foundation, contains 56 recommendations urging radical reform to police culture, skills and training and organisational structure.
– Creation of a new Crime Prevention Agency
– Expansion of the role of the National Crime Agency so it in effect becomes a new FBI for the UK
– Introduction of a new licence to practice for all police officers that is renewed every five years and subject to strict conditions
– Merger of back office functions across the 43 forces that would save hundreds of millions of pounds
– Investment in front line policing, training and technology to modernise the service from top to bottom.
Launching the report at an event in London, Sir Michael Barber said, “There is a crisis of confidence in policing in this country which is corroding public trust. The reasons are deep rooted and complex – some cultural and others systemic. However taken together, unless there is urgent change, they will end up destroying the principle of policing by consent that has been at the heart of British policing for decades.
“Policing in this country is at a crossroads and it cannot stand still whilst the world changes so quickly around it. Now is the moment to move forward quickly on the path of reform. The warning signs if we do nothing are flashing red and we ignore them at our peril.
“This report represents the most comprehensive review of policing for a generation and sets out an agenda for fundamental change. It is the product of over two years of work and engagement with the police and a range of different stakeholders. Everyone recognises the need to shift the odds, which too often are stacked in favour of the criminal. We need a modern police service fit for the future, which is at the cutting edge of technology and training. And we need it urgently. I believe the will is there and that the talented police officers who work tirelessly for the public would be the strongest champions of change.”
The Review found that the police service has not kept pace with the changing patterns of crime, while also having to deal with a huge rises in non-crime related demand:
– In 2021, 53% of all crime affecting people in England and Wales was fraud and cybercrime. Despite this, just 0.1% result in a charge or summons
– There has been a 240% increase in the numbers of rapes reported to the police and yet the percentage of rape cases resulting in a charge fell from 8.5% in 2015 to just 1.5% in 2021
– Detection rates generally have almost halved in the last seven years, falling from 17% all reported crimes resulting in a charge or summons in 2014 to just 9% today
– There was a 28% increase in mental health related incidents between 2014 and 2018 across 26 forces
– Around three million ‘investigation hours’ are dedicated to missing persons reports very year, the equivalent of 1562 full time police officers per year or the number of police officers needed for North Yorkshire.
As a result, the report argues that the public is losing confidence:
– The proportion of crime victims who were ‘very satisfied’ with the police response declined from 42% in 2014 to 32% in 2020, while the proportion ‘not satisfied’ rose from 26% to 34%
– Between 2016 and 2020 the proportion of people saying they thought the police did a good or excellent job fell from 63% to 55%.
To tackle this crisis of confidence and ensure the police service can meet the challenges of the future, the report calls for radical reform to three broad areas of: police-public relations, skills and training, and organisation.
There needs to be an improvement in the relationship between the police and the public. The report includes a series of recommendations including:
– An increase in visible neighbourhood policing in every police force
– Improved training and support for sergeants and inspectors so they are equipped to provide stronger supervision, tackle poor conduct and call out bad behaviour
– National targets to improve the diversity of the police workforce. At the current pace of change it will take another 58 years (until 2079) for the police service to achieve a workforce that is representative of England and Wales in terms of ethnicity.
Skills and training
Police training needs a complete overhaul so that the police are equipped to take on new forms of crime. 40% of police officers say they had not received necessary training to do their job well. The report includes a series of recommendations to improve this including:
– Action to tackle a shortage of 6851 detectives across the country, including expanded direct entry schemes to attract mid-career applicants from other sectors and a new pay supplement to attract more officers into investigatory roles
– Every officer should be entitled to a minimum set of hours per year reserved for learning and development
– The Home Office should introduce a Licence to Practice for police officers, administered by the College of Policing. This should be renewed every five years, subject to an officer demonstrating professional development through achieving relevant qualifications, passing an interview or presenting a portfolio of activities and achievements. Any police officer who fails this assessment could receive further support including mentoring. After successive failures they would have their licence removed and would no longer be able to practice as a police officer.
The way the police service is organised has not changed significantly since the 1960s. Local police forces should focus on local crime, emergency incidents and visible community policing. They are however poorly equipped to tackle surging levels of fraud and cyber crime. It is neither effective nor efficient for every police force to run its own HR, finance and other support functions.
The report makes a number of recommendations to reform the way the police service is organised, including:
– To tackle surging levels of fraud and cyber crime, the government should introduce a dedicated Crime Prevention Agency that would be responsible for ensuring crime is designed out at source. This new agency would have powers to enforce a new statutory duty on large companies to prevent crime
– To tackle increasing levels of cross border crime there should be a major expansion of the National Crime Agency (NCA), to make it more like a British FBI. Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs), which currently sit with local police forces, should be transferred over to the National Crime Agency. This would put these units on a firmer financial footing and would make sure they were housed within a national network that prioritises tackling serious and organised crime
– The College of Policing should be reformed and expanded to become a powerful agency for police improvement. It should have powers to set mandatory professional standards for all police officers, to require police forces to address skills gaps and to require police forces to develop common IT standards so data can be properly shared between forces
– Specialist and back office functions, currently largely operating in each of the 43 forces, should be merged into Regional Police Support Units, which would ensure they were delivered more effectively and would save hundreds of millions of pounds in reduced duplication.
The full details of all 56 recommendations can be found in the full report, which can be viewed here: https://www.policingreview.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/srpew_final_report.pdf