The Home Affairs Committee has urged the Government to prioritise policing in the Autumn Budget and the next Comprehensive Spending Review, warning that without additional funding for policing, there will be dire consequences for public safety and criminal justice.
The wide-ranging “Policing for the Future” report looks at the changing demands on policing, and the Committee found that forces are struggling to cope in the face of changing and rising crimes, as a result of falling staff numbers, outdated technology, capabilities, structures, fragmentation and a failure of Home Office leadership.
It recommends major changes to the police response to new and growing crimes and warns that the Home Office cannot continue to stand back while police forces struggle.
Responding to the report, Association President Gavin Thomas said:
“This is an important report by cross-party members of the Home Affairs Committee.
“I am grateful for the level of detail and enquiry they have undertaken to support their conclusions, which have vindicated what I and my Association have been highlighting for a number of years.
“We have heard many euphemisms to describe the current state of policing, from ‘stretched’ and ‘challenged’ to ‘degraded’ or ‘difficult’.
“Last year I said that policing was facing a perfect storm and this year I said I believe it is now in a state of crisis.
“This report has highlighted that there is a need now for political leadership to take some tough decisions with the service. This needs gripping.
“It also needs what I have repeatedly called for: a review on what we want from our service in the 21st century, and how we configure, structure and resource it to meet the needs of our communities.
“We need an honest debate with the public, politicians and opinion informers, and to acknowledge where reform has not worked, and to say so and change it.
“My Association supports localism and the bedrock that is neighbourhood policing.
“But localism will not address the significant challenges this service is facing, which do not respect boundaries and lines.
“Recent experience and evidence suggests that the reliance on collaborations between forces is a flawed idea. My Association will continue to call for this whole review of the current 43 force structure and the need for mergers.
“This report has further highlighted that no-one has a strategic overview of policing in this country, of the interdependencies and the unintended consequences recent reforms of policing have brought.
“It is my view, and one supported by this report, that Government has a significant role .
“What is also exceptionally important to remember is that behind this report is a service of hard-working and dedicated people.
“This morning, as every morning, policing colleagues across the country are reporting for duty and trying to do the best they can in keeping our communities safe and meeting the unprecedented demand our service is now facing.
“We have extraordinary people at every level in this service, doing extraordinary work everyday, but it is unsustainable to rely on those few people to keep working like they do now to try to keep this service delivering.”
The findings of the report include:
- New data gathered by the Committee shows neighbourhood policing has been cut by over 20% since 2010, and some forces have lost more than two thirds of their neighbourhood officers.
- Recorded crime is up 32% in 3 years – including steep rises in robbery, theft and vehicle crime – but charges and summons are down 26%, and police forces are overstretched.
- Only a tiny proportion of online fraud cases are ever investigated and the police response needs a fundamental overhaul.
- The police response to online child sexual abuse is nowhere near the scale needed, and forces are woefully under-resourced for investigations.
- In many areas, the police force is being used as the sole emergency service for mental health crises.
- Investment in and adoption of new technology is an “utter mess”.
- Policing is suffering from “a complete failure of leadership” from the Home Office, especially on responding to new and changing crimes.
Read the Association’s submission to the inquiry here.