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West Midlands Police Federation

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Profound and far-reaching police reform is needed

9 July 2019

Profound and far-reaching police reform is needed, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary has warned.

In his annual assessment of policing in England and Wales, Sir Thomas Winsor said most police forces were performing well, and praised the police for their integrity and bravery.

But he also called on leaders in police forces and institutions to make bold and long-term decisions to improve policing or risk unacceptable compromises in the quality of service and public safety.

Sir Thomas concluded in the State of Policing 2018 report: “I believe that some profound and far-reaching aspects of police reform are called for. For these reforms to take place, leaders in central government, PCCs and chief constables will all need to make bold, long-term decisions.

“If they don’t, the windspeed of police reform will fall to a flutter, leaving the police service increasingly unable to meet the demands it faces. The inevitable legacy of such an approach would be unacceptable compromises in both the quality of service the police can offer the public and the level of public safety and security the police can uphold.

“But if the reforms I have set out in my assessment are carried out, competently, comprehensively and with resolve, they will secure major improvements in police effectiveness and efficiency.
“The widening gap…between the public’s needs and the police’s capacity and capability, will begin to narrow.

And the police service will be better able to adapt to face the demands of today and tomorrow, to the great benefit of all of us.”

He said there was continued controversy about the 43-force structure of policing in England and Wales, with a need for the police service to function as part of a single law enforcement system.

Other areas highlighted for reform included:

  • Consideration of new mandatory standards to prevent inefficiency and ineffectiveness in policing;
  • Enactment of proposed legislation to strengthen the role of the Forensic Science Regulator;
  • Multi-year financial settlements for the most efficient police forces, to provide them with certainty, stability and predictability; and
  • Longer-term investment in technology, such as body-worn video, fully-functional hand-held mobile devices, facial recognition and artificial intelligence.

Urging reform, Sir Thomas said the ‘wider criminal justice system is dysfunctional and defective’. He said rehabilitation needed to be taken more seriously, with people released from prisons guaranteed proper support in dealing with benefits and finance and finding work and accommodation.

He acknowledged the pressures forces were facing.
“There are indications that some forces are straining under significant pressure as they try to meet growing complex and high-risk demand with weakened resources,” he explained.

National Federation chair John Apter called on the Government and police leaders to take brave decisions to enable policing to provide the service the public expect and deserve.

He said: “We welcome the fact that the report does not shy away from a lot of the difficult questions about policing, its future and how it should be funded. Many of the themes echo what the Federation has been saying for years, and while it does not focus solely on policing numbers, you just cannot ignore the elephant in the room, namely that we now have 22,000 fewer officers than we did in 2010.

“It’s also right that the report highlights issues with the police funding formula, where the Home Office has been dragging its feet over a review of the formula for the past four years. This has led to inequalities between the way different forces are funded and having to juggle their resources to try to provide a policing service to protect the public and communities at a time when crime, especially violent crime is rising significantly, and the murder rate is at a 10-year high.”

The chair concluded: “In many ways, this report is a breath of fresh air. It recognises that there are some difficult conversations to be had. MPs and the Government need to take a long, hard look at the levels of funding they are willing to provide and recognise that, quite simply, if funding does not keep pace rising demand, they are going to have to revise those expectations. There is no magic policing wand – it’s a case of difficult choices and the Government being honest about what it is prepared to pay for.”

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September 2020
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