The police service is facing the challenge of a gradual
yet significant expansion of its responsibilities. Greater clarity
is needed as to its core role in the 21st century. Pressure to
meet quantitative Home Office targets has often caused officers
to prioritise trivial offences. We welcome the Government's undertaking
to replace top-down targets with locally-set priorities, and encourage
greater use of officer discretion, backed by more effective supervision.
Public expectations of the police are not being met.
The public want the police to be more active in dealing with minor
crime and anti-social behaviour. The police should be more visible
and more responsive to the public, and should give greater consideration
to the needs of the victim in investigating crimes.
A number of functions are putting particular pressure
on police resources. Foreign nationals take longer and cost more
for police forces to process than British citizens. Rapid immigration
has led to funding shortfalls in some force areas. The Government
needs to give greater assistance to forces in areas experiencing
rapid population change.
We are concerned at the amount of police time spent
dealing with alcohol-related crime, with forces now deploying
officers for longer periods owing to changes in the licensing
laws. We remain unconvinced that Alcohol Disorder Zones will have
the desired effect but support the principle of mandatory contributions
to policing from alcohol retailers. The practice of loss-leading
should be ended and compulsory, enforceable standards for the
industry should be introduced.
We are concerned at the large number of murder suspects
released on bail. We support amendments to the bail laws to take
into account the capacity of police forces to monitor offenders,
and a presumption against bail in murder cases. We have seen examples
of effective police approaches to reducing gang-related knife
and gun crime, which combine diversionary activities with targeted,
intelligence-led campaigns against known offenders. However, such
approaches can prove very resource intensive.
Faced with tight funding, the police need to identify
ways to free up resources. We are disappointed at the lack of
progress made in reducing police bureaucracy but welcome plans
for shorter crime-recording forms and new processes for stop and
account. All frontline officers should have access to a personal
digital assistant. Centralisation of the development and purchase
of technology through the National Policing Improvement Agency
would reduce costs, ensure systems are integrated and prevent
Regional collaboration works well in some parts of
England and Wales, but progress elsewhere is too slow. The Home
Secretary should use her powers to mandate collaboration. We support
greater use of non-warranted police staff where this is cost-effective,
but not to the extent that the number of police officers required
for maintaining public order is significantly reduced. We are
glad that the Government has abandoned plans to allow police staff
to fulfil the role of custody sergeant.
After examining the structures through which policing
is organised and governed, we conclude that the tripartite governance
structure should be rebalanced to return more control to local
forces. There should be greater accountability of policing at
a local level, however, the proposals put forward by the Home
Office to restructure police authorities do not meet this need
and may undermine partnership working between the police and local
authorities. Neighbourhood teams can improve public confidence
in the police, but need to gain a higher profile so that their
priorities genuinely reflect the concerns of local residents.
There remains a gap in provision for tackling serious
and organised crime. We do not support force mergers at this stage
as a solution but reiterate our concerns about the lack of progress
on collaboration. We found it difficult to assess whether the
service has the capacity to respond to a major terrorist attack
or manage large-scale events such as the Olympics.
There is no evidence of a drop in the number or quality
of police officer applicants, but some forces have expressed concern
over retention. In particular, the high number of transfers to
the Metropolitan Police causes problems for surrounding areas.
The recent lack of candidates for chief officer posts should be
addressed through improving incentives, rather than by direct
entry to posts from outside the service. There should be greater
standardisation in the deployment of police community support
officers. The Home Secretary should consider whether they could
be granted powers of arrest in exceptional circumstances. We do
not advocate affirmative action, but the lack of progress on Government
diversity targets necessitates greater efforts to ensure that
the police are representative of the communities they serve.