Government needs to act now to avoid policing crisis

22 March 2018

The Government must act before it’s too late warns the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) after inspectors state that “cracks” are starting to show in policing in England and Wales.

In response to the “PEEL: Police Effectiveness 2017” report published today by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), PFEW Chair Calum Macleod said: “This report has made it clear that what we have been saying for years is true – policing in this country is reaching breaking point.

“Her Majesty’s Inspector Zoe Billingham, who led the inspection, states the service is under ‘significant stress’ and that this stress is so severe in some forces they are at risk of ‘being unable to keep people safe’.

“Let that sink in. The Government’s own inspector has said that some parts of the police service in the country are so stretched that people may be put in danger.

“If this is not a wake-up call I don’t know what is. We cannot allow this situation to deteriorate to such an extent where people are routinely put a risk. That is unthinkable – but shockingly it seems – not unrealistic.”

The HMICFRS’s damning report comes just days after the Prime Minister was reprimanded by The UK Statistics Authority for misleading the public over police funding. She was rebuked over her claims the Government was providing £450 million extra in policing funding when, in reality, a large proportion of this will money will come from an increase in the amount people pay as part of their Council Tax.

“This must now galvanise the Government to act. There can be no shying away from this issue or attempts to pull wool over the public’s eyes as the Prime Minister has been accused of recently,” said Mr Macleod.  

The PEEL report, which saw all 43 forces in England and Wales assessed, reinforced the findings of several pieces of work which have been undertaken by the Federation.

It states a quarter of forces are struggling to cope with the demand they face which is resulting in call backlogs, delays in attending incidents including those involving vulnerable people. This echoes the findings of our work into the issues officers face surrounding demand, capacity and welfare.

It also reflects concerns highlighted in another Federation campaign - the crisis in detective policing. The report states that at the moment there is a shortfall of 5,000 of qualified detectives meaning that one in five detective positions an unfilled or taken by unqualified staff.

Mr Macleod said: “The Federation is continually examining and researching the issues facing policing today and our findings are mirrored in this report. Our own demand, capacity and welfare work has highlighted that officers are facing unprecedented workloads accompanied by unprecedented levels of stress.  

“Last week we launched our ‘Detectives in Crisis’ campaign, prompted by our detectives survey, which shows that 75 per cent of detectives saying their workload is too high. This research was used by Ms Billingham and her team when preparing this piece the report.

“It is a damning indictment of the state of policing that forces are unable to fill detective positions the remit of which is to deal with some of the most serious crimes often with the most vulnerable victims.

“If victims are not getting the service they deserve and expect, and the officers that are tasked to investigate these matters are reaching breaking point – how are we fulfilling out public service duty?

“Every police officer joined the job to help people and to make a difference. The continued campaign of cutting the police budgets has led to the point where they are unable to do this.

“Morale is at rock bottom, and despite officers continuing to do their very best, policing finds itself in dire straits.  

“It is no longer a case that the Federation could be accused of hyperbole when it comes to the crisis in policing.

“This independent report paints a desperate picture. It makes difficult reading for all and I hope the Prime Minister and Home Secretary will take action as soon as possible to ensure that the cracks don’t lead to irreparable breakages to this most vital public service.”