11 August 2022
Policing is in desperate need of a long-term funding deal from the Government to help redress some of the stark findings revealed in a report on burglary, robbery and theft from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) published today (11 August).
The report highlighted a multitude of issues echoing serious concerns which have been repeatedly raised by the Police Federation of England Wales (PFEW) for a number of years.
Charge rates for robbery, burglary and vehicle theft are low, and have dramatically decreased in recent years. Home Office data shows only 7 per cent of all robbery offences and 4 per cent of thefts result in a charge.
Responding to the report, PFEW National Chair Steve Hartshorn, said: “I appreciate these offences are not just volume crimes and have a real impact on the public and their ability to feel safe in their homes and communities, this is not under dispute in any way.
“Policing is in crisis due to a perfect storm of factors – many PFEW have been warning about repeatedly for a number of years, including, most significantly, that cuts would have dire consequences. We have sadly been found to be correct. It appears that despite the same messages from various reports and organisations over the years no action has been taken to prevent matters escalating and becoming worse."
Inspectorates partly put this down to forces lacking investigative capacity and capability, often because of the national detective shortage and inexperience within the overall workforce.
Supervisors have repeatedly disclosed they are concerned over impossibly high workloads faced by detectives, which is having a detrimental impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
The report also found officers are overwhelmed with the volume and expectations of the work resulting in them leaving the job, highlighting the increasing attrition rates we are seeing across forces.
Recent changes to CPS rules on disclosure have exacerbated this issue, as officers are left with impossible amounts paperwork to compile, resulting in the criminal justice process slowing down further. PFEW is campaigning for a change in the redaction process and changes to GDPR to help alleviate the challenges this guidance has caused for all parties.
A PFEW survey on the new guidelines found:
• 93 per cent of respondents’ workloads had increased
• 87 per cent of respondents felt the guidance had increased how stressful they found the job
• 61 per cent noted the changes had increased their intentions to leave their role
• 45 per cent referenced the increase in the number of victims who have withdrawn from investigations due to delays caused by the guidance
• 2/3 of respondents found the changes decreased the number of hours they spend actively investigating cases
Mr Hartshorn added: “Every detective wants to do their best, but there simply are not enough hours in the day to keep up with the ever-increasing demands and the workload. Changes by the CPS to disclosure rules have worsened an already worrying situation. The changes to the redaction guidance put forward by PFEW could make a real impact on this problem if the campaign is successful.
“Demand is outstripping resources and they are working excessive hours and forgoing rest days to keep on top of these impossible workloads. This is severely impacting on their physical and mental wellbeing, and sadly influences their decision to resign."
The HMICFRS report also cited a lack of experienced officers as an issue, stating these crimes are being “investigated poorly” and are not adequately supervised.
PFEW rejects the suggestion that this lies at the fault of officers new in role. The underlying causes, such as: underfunding, lack of training and lack of officers in supervisory positions are all contributing to the statistics within the report.
PFEW believes it is paramount more focus is placed on retention and not just recruitment which could be achieved through better pay and working conditions.
“We appreciate the Government is continuing with its uplift programme after a decade of police numbers being decimated, but there are still shortfalls in the number of detectives in forces across England and Wales. There are also localised issues with recruitment that need to be addressed in relation to the uplift," he continued.
“There is also huge concern around experienced officers leaving the service in droves and knock-on effect this has to officers new in service. Leaders must ensure they do not just focus on getting people through the door."
The report also highlighted victims are facing a postcode lottery when it comes to how thoroughly officers might investigate crimes. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke said this is “unjustifiable.”
On the other hand, it found some police forces are “working hard” to tackle these crimes and uncovered some “excellent examples” of innovative and effective practice.
PFEW would ask why there is a postcode lottery and what specifically is causing these issues? Without this information, forces cannot identify sustainable, long-term solutions to ensure investigations are undertaken in the most professional manner.
“Our members deserve more investment, better benefits and an appropriate integrated learning environment that equips them for the realities of policing," Mr Hartshorn explained.
“I would urge the Government to commit to a long-term, sustainable funding settlement, and review its outdated funding formula which contributes to this postcode lottery service for victims which is unacceptable.
“A long term plan would allow chief constables, police and crime commissioners and our partner agencies in policing to plan for the future and would also help efforts to put sustainable mentoring and training strategies in place so our officers can provide the very best service they themselves want to provide to the public,” he concluded.