Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has released its annual report, The State of Policing, which contains the assessment of the effectiveness and efficiency of policing in England and Wales.
The report also contains a summary of the police efficiency, effectiveness and legitimacy (PEEL) inspections for the assessment period April 2018 - May 2019.
Key points from the assessment:
1. "Most forces are performing well, despite many new policing challenges."
The report is (rightly so) highly complimentary of the outstanding work that frontline officers carry out all year round. The "generally high standards of policing" are exemplified through the awarding of the George Medals and the Queen's Gallantry Medals, as well as the good response to previous inspection recommendations from Cheshire and Lancashire.
The changes in demands on policing in the reporting period represent new challenges that are further stretching our forces. Notable challenges include extraordinary events, such as exiting the EU, the unlawful use of a nerve agent (in the jurisdiction of one of the smallest fores in England and Wales), the Gatwick Airport drone incident, environmental protests, and rising levels of street violence.
While there have been many examples of extraordinary policing, there needs to be a stronger understanding of what police must, should and could do within the wider challenges that plague their operating environment, in particular the "wider system that isn't working properly" and police funding "dilemmas".
2. "In some important respects, the wider criminal justice system is dysfunctional and defective".
Policing success in tackling crime and delivering public safety services relies heavily on the ability of the wider criminal justice system. Without a functioning system, criminal activity, disruption and disorder will continue to rise, which will have a relational impact on society, placing further burdens on police, criminal justice agencies and citizens.
Vulnerability is a particularly poignant case study, as it highlights the very real potential (and reality) that the people who most need our criminal justice system to work are failed by the system.
As a step towards amending this at times "dysfunctional and defective system", HMICFRS welcomes the reversal of the privatisation of the probation service.
The case for early intervention and multi-agency collaboration is made through an example of an at-risk teenager and the Early Action Together approach in Wales. Often referred to as, or reminiscent of, the Public Health Approach to public safety, the report highlights the success of these approaches in providing early and immediate intervention, addressing recidivism risks and in turn, the opportunities to alleviate demands on policing.
3. "Mismatch between police funding and public expectations."
Police funding and police numbers receives a lot of media and political attention. But this does not include the wider needs that police funding must cover, such as buildings, vehicles and other capabilities, including technology. With policing representing only "around 2% of public expenditure", yet being one of the most essential public services, there are dire consequences. Public expectations for policing services do not match what funding is allocated, meaning there is a need for the Government to address this. Without a resolution, and an overhaul of how expenditure is awarded and managed, the police are at risk of being stretched beyond capacity and the impacts will be felt most strongly by the most vulnerable among us.
The report also provides some useful insights into ways that existing funding and police capabilities can be better used. This specifically includes making better use of technology, particularly digital mobile tech solutions. While some forces demonstrated progression here, this is not consistent nationally and the systems are not integrated as optimally as they could be.
4. Policing needs to see a "reform of national regional and local arrangements."
While much of what police deal with regularly is local, there is a "substantial and increasing amount of crime that transcends local, regional and national borders." The report analyses the 43 force model, and the role of the Policing & Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in an increasingly connected world, stating that "the need has never been greater for the police service to function, with the NCA, as a single law enforcement system." The report cites this as a significant challenge for policing, and the role of the PCCs can risk countering the fifth Peelian principle; that police "should seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy."
There is a crying need for greater co-ordination and a "rebalancing of effort, attention and resources across local, regional and national functions". Some of the national technology programmes represent a useful example of how national transformation can be rolled out across the forces. To strengthen these efforts, however, there is a need for standardisation as the consistency of the success felt at a local level is still somewhat fragmented.
To conclude, while there are examples of excellence in policing in England and Wales, the wider context is in need of "profound and far-reaching aspects of police reform". This is a clear message, and one that is hopefully as clearly received by decision-makers.
techUK stands ready and willing to continue to support our police, not just in England and Wales, but across all of the UK, with their technology needs. We can and do bring the industry together to listen to the challenges, and support and inform solutions where possible.
To our industry members, we are excited that you are working with us, and encourage you to come to us with further challenges, ideas and opportunities that you think policing can benefit from as they look to tackle the challenges and take on the opportunities that are laid out in this year's report.
techUK is a friend of policing, at the local, regional and national level. We encourage our friends in policing to continue to use us as you look to technological solutions to support aspects of the critical public safety role that you play.