Minister urges ‘common sense policing’ as chiefs and politicians gather in Westminster

Senior police leaders and Police and Crime Commissioners came together for the annual NPCC/APCC conference after a tumultuous week in British politics that saw the departure of the Home Secretary and the return of former PM, David Cameron as Foreign Secretary.

The Policing Minister, the Right Hon Chris Philp MP, addressed the conference and took the opportunity to restate the importance of the relationship between politicians and the police. He said that he, the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister take operational independence ‘very seriously and respect it.’  

He spoke about the policing of protests and recognised the right to peaceful protest. “We don’t support violent thuggery on our streets. We will not support inciting racial hatred. These are important principles. We expect police to enforce the law without fear or favour.”

Uplift in police numbers

There are now just under 150,000 police officers, more than ever before. “I am determined we maintain these numbers going forward.” He added that he wanted to see more money for the front line ahead of the police funding settlement due to be announced in December.

Focusing on burdens that inhibit policing, the Minister highlighted the national roll out of a new approach to dealing with mental health calls. Right Care, Right Person is already working in five forces, he said, saving time for police forces and he encouraged all forces to expedite its take up.

He talked about how to build trust and confidence in policing. “What we need is common sense policing. I would like to see a real focus on preventing crime, protecting the public and prosecuting criminals.” Anything beyond that is, he said, a distraction. He urged forces to do the basics right.

Technology innovation

Turning to the theme of technology, the Minister said that it was being used to identify knives through application of artificial intelligence techniques. “It’s not ready to deploy yet,” he cautioned, but within a year it should mean that police could scan for knives at a distance.

In a speech at the Police Digital Summit in September, the Minister stressed his desire to see live facial recognition technology used in police forces across the country. At this conference, he said that even if an image is blurry or partially obscured, the technology is so good it can make a match against police databases. “I’m absolutely convinced that if we double, triple or quadruple the number of searches we do, it will result in the capturing thousands more criminals.”

Namechecking police forces and PCCs involved with a range of measures, he spoke about anti-social behaviour, saying that the public ‘deeply dislike’ feeling unsafe in parks and public spaces. He said that hot spot patrols piloted in ten force areas had shown ‘extraordinary’ early results in reducing the volume of anti-social behaviour reports. From April 2024, funding will go to all forces to reduce it even further.

Concluding his speech, he said there had been ‘huge progress’ in policing but there is a lot more to do in the coming year. Glad to still be in post, he said it is ‘an honour and a privilege’ to be the Policing Minister. “Ours is a vital mission, so let’s work together to keep the British public safe.”

Photo credit: Rt Hon Chris Philp MP talks to Julie Etchingham at the conference.