Select Committee on Home Affairs Seventh Report

2  Expectations of the police

8. We begin by considering the role of the police in the 21st century, the appropriateness of Home Office targets in setting police priorities and driving performance, and whether or not the service is meeting public expectations for crime prevention and investigation.

The role of the police in the 21st century

9. The Statement of Common Purpose and Values for the Police Service sets out that:

This statement, adopted by the service in 1990, essentially reflects Peel's Principles of Policing devised in the 1820s. However, while the purpose of the police remains unchanged, a number of factors resulted in dramatic changes in police activity and the context in which it takes place during the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st..

10. Changes in society led to a steady rise in recorded crime levels between the 1950s and the 1990s, with recorded crime per officer increasing dramatically in the 1980s from an average of 26 crimes per officer in 1982, to 42 per officer in 1992. This figure has since remained fairly constant.[4]

11. Increased mobility and new technologies have facilitated new kinds of crime. Police witnesses cited internet-based child pornography, counter-terrorism, financial investigation of organised crime and gang-related crime as some of their new responsibilities.[5] Traditionally, the police were responsible for investigating crime occurring in the relatively static communities for which they were responsible. Although the police service in England and Wales remains structured into 43 local forces, crime now often crosses force and national borders.

12. Moreover, an increased emphasis on multi-agency approaches to public protection has involved the police in a range of activities that were formerly the preserve of other organisations, including victim support and family liaison, managing offenders in society after release from prison, sex offender monitoring, and participation in Safer Schools and Youth Offending Teams.[6] Increased partnership working enhances public protection procedures. However, the 2005 national review of crime and disorder reduction partnerships, which are statutory partnerships between agencies at unitary authority level to promote community safety, discovered that there was often a "hierarchy of participation", owing to a situation in which:

    Whilst many agencies and non statutory bodies including the business and voluntary and community sectors have a role to play in community safety locally, a handful of key agencies are ultimately accountable for delivery.[7]

Without clearly defined roles, the police are often persuaded to take a lead in such partnerships regardless of whether or not this is appropriate, as the agency primarily held responsible for crime.

13. A rise in the number of criminal offences has increased the scope of behaviour the police are required to record and investigate, adding to their workload. 3,605 new criminal offences have been created since 1997.[8] The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) argues that as the number of categories of incidents the police are tasked to tackle has grown, "dealing with incidents has become the predominant focus" at the expense of "resolving the underlying problem of which the incident is a symptom".[9] The Deputy Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police, Douglas Paxton, agreed that more and more calls for service are now recorded as formal crimes. He told us that, since 1998, 29 new Home Office crime classifications have been introduced resulting in the recording of 750,000 new offences in 2005/06 alone.[10]

14. The result of these developments, according to ACPO, is that:

    The service is grappling with an expanding, yet imprecise, mission … In 2008 the police service in England and Wales can be characterised as having a mission that is wider than ever before and having a lack of shared clarity amongst stakeholders about what is expected of it in relation to the breadth of the challenge.[11]

The Borough Commander of Hackney Police, Chief Superintendent Steve Dann, elaborated on this uncertainty:

    What are we there for? I think we need some clarity around that … Why do we take lost property? Why do we take lost dogs? Is that what we should be doing? My belief is I think we need to fundamentally review what policing is about … You have some people saying: "Enforcement. Let's enforce. That is your job"; other people are saying we should be in prevention, education. It is such a complex business now, policing, so I think we need to take a bit of a time out and say: "Okay, what are we here for?"[12]

The Police Federation argued that "a more holistic review of policing has been required for some time", as the narrow focus of reviews undertaken since the 1960s has led only to "piecemeal change".[13] The Federation has advocated that the Government establishes a Royal Commission. A Royal Commission is independent of party politics, which is crucial when investigating a subject that has become very politicised, such as policing. However, Commissions usually take at least two years to report.

15. These changes have included the development of new structures to separate out and clarify the different roles of the police. Neighbourhood policing, which introduced teams comprising police officers and police community support officers to 'neighbourhoods' corresponding to local government wards between 2003 and 2008, was conceived partly as a means of returning to a more traditional, local service to deal with less serious forms of crime and disorder. More serious crime should be dealt with through the recently-established Serious and Organised Crime Agency and regional collaboration between forces. We explore these structures in chapter five.

16. The Police Federation argue for greater clarity is as to "who is responsible for which aspect of policing."[14] ACPO suggested to us that greater efforts to hold partnerships to account for the mutual provision of services could motivate all those involved in delivery to take responsibility. A new police performance framework, the Assessment of Policing and Community Safety (APACS), was introduced in April 2008, partly to recognise that so much police work is undertaken in partnership. ACPO, however, expressed concern that local authorities and other partner agencies are still not bound by APACS performance indicators to the same extent that the police are.[15] Gwent Police and Police Authority representatives repeated this concern with regards to Welsh local authorities during our visit to Monmouth.[16]

17. The role of the police in the 21st century is broader than it has ever been, owing to a sharp rise in crime levels during the second half of the 20th century, the classification of increasing numbers of incidents as criminal offences, the impact of changes in society and technological advances on patterns of criminality, and growing police involvement in multi-agency approaches to public protection. To ensure the police can fulfil their core roles effectively, there is a need for greater clarity as to their mission and the extent of their responsibilities. Recent reviews of different aspects of policing have not gone far enough. We recommend that an independent review, such as a Royal Commission, or similarly independent review, is established to review what the police do and how they are organised to do it. This review should be focussed and time-limited, in order to provide the police with the clarity about their role that they urgently need. The Government should exercise caution in future when classifying undesirable behaviour as criminal offences.

18. It is vital that the police are involved in partnership activity at a local level as an effective means of preventing and protecting the public against crime. However, the police should not be expected to fill gaps left by a lack of capacity on the part of other statutory or community organisations. All agencies involved in partnership work should be held accountable for delivery. In replying to this report, the Home Office should provide us with assurance that all local authorities in England and Wales will be held to account for Assessment of Policing and Community Safety indicators.

Home Office expectations of the police

"Hitting the target but missing the point"

19. The Home Office sets out its expectations for police activity through a series of targets in the form of statutory performance indicators. Performance against these targets was measured by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary through the Police Performance Assessment Framework between 2004 and 2008, and will henceforth by measured through the Assessment of Policing and Community Safety. Since 1998, the Government has also increasingly used Public Service Agreements published as part of Comprehensive Spending Reviews as a means of setting performance targets for particular areas of activity.

20. We heard evidence that many police officers, irrespective of rank, consider some Home Office targets to be unhelpful, particularly those for 'offences brought to justice' and 'sanction detections', in that they prevent the police from focusing activity where it is most needed. 'Offences brought to justice' are crimes reported to the police that have been resolved by means of a conviction, caution, penalty notice for disorder, offences taken into consideration at court or a formal warning for cannabis possession. In 2005, the police were set a target of contributing towards bringing 1.25 million offences to justice each year by 2007/08.

21. 1,447 million offences were in fact brought to justice in the twelve months to March 2008,[17] but it is argued that the target was met by increasing the number of lower-level offences that were taken through to prosecution, where offenders might previously have been let off. Brian Paddick, a former Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police who gave evidence in his capacity as Liberal Democrat London mayoral candidate, told us:

    The problem with the Home Office was nationally imposed targets, some of which were having perverse outcomes. For example, in terms of offences brought to justice, I am sure the Committee will realise that it is one point on the score board for a complex case of murder which might take 18 months to investigate and six months to try in court, provided there is a conviction that counts as one offence brought to justice, and a cannabis warning that takes 20 minutes to deal with on the street which counts as exactly the same under current Home Office targets.[18]

7.1% of the 1.447 million 'offences brought to justice' were cannabis warnings.

22. To contribute towards the 'offences brought to justice' target, the Home Office ordered the police to increase their rate of 'sanction detections'—offences that are detected or cleared by charging someone, issuing a penalty notice or giving a caution:

    The Government is clear that to ensure more offenders are brought to justice, the rate and quality of sanction detection must improve. Sanction detection rates in many forces are too low … to provide a level of sanction detections sufficient to meet the offenders brought to justice target, it is estimated that forces will be required to improve their sanction detection rate from its current level of 18.7% to at least 25% nationally by 2008.[19]

23. Again, in order to meet this kind of quantitative target, it is easier for officers to pursue minor offences than the more complex crimes, and to abandon their professional discretion in how they might best deal with these incidents. Chief Superintendent Dave Hudson of Essex Police told us that his Colchester division had a daily target of 20.5 'sanction detections', with the same weighting accorded to every detection, regardless of the seriousness of the offence.[20] Seven out of ten of the Basic Command Unit Commanders surveyed by the Policy Exchange think tank in 2007 believed that "central targets have degraded their ability to provide high quality policing", while just under a fifth thought these targets "have had no impact on the quality of policing at all".[21]

24. The situation is made worse by the discrepancy between the police target to increase the number of detections and the CPS target to reduce the number of failed prosecutions. According to the Police Federation, this results in "a police service more likely to pursue charges and cautions and a CPS who have become more risk averse, requiring at least a 51% chance of success before they will even consider proceeding with a prosecution".[22] Harriet Sergeant comments in a recent pamphlet, The Public and the Police:

    The police find their targets in conflict with those of the CPS, to the detriment of the public. CPS lawyers are judged, amongst other things, by the proportion and volume of successful convictions. This supposedly sensible target has two unintended consequences … CPS lawyers only bring to court those cases they are fairly sure of winning. In order to do so, they will 'test every drunk to the level of a terrorist', complained one sergeant, and collect 'every single, tiny scrap of evidence' … Investigating each case at such length … has 'massive resource implications' for the police … The CPS target also brings them into conflict with the interests of the victim. Many police officers felt bitter about the number of cases being dropped.[23]

25. Several witnesses expressed concern that individuals are being criminalised for trivial misdemeanours. The Chairman of the Police Federation, Paul McKeever, argued:

    If you take it down to the basic level, if you have a motorist who is stopped and is given a lecture about their driving, often, in my experience, they have been more willing to take that and perhaps amend their ways than if you take them through the hard process of reporting them and putting penalty points on their licence. That is not going to show up in targets. So we are losing that because, clearly, it is going to be better for the officer to report that person because there is a tick in the box.[24]

The Youth Justice Board expressed concern that minor offences committed by young people in particular are leading to disproportionate processing by the police.[25]

26. The current system of performance management also causes forces to concentrate on areas of work that are included in performance indicators to the exclusion of unmeasured areas, in particular what might be important locally, and on short-term issues to the exclusion of longer term considerations.[26] Chief Superintendent Ian Johnston, President of the Police Superintendent's Association, told us when we visited Monmouth that the police are "hitting the target but missing the point".[27]


27. The Minister of State for Counter-Terrorism, Security, Crime and Policing, Rt Hon Tony McNulty MP, told us that the Government has taken note of the criticism over targets:

28. The table below sets out statutory performance indicators (SPIs) for 2008/09:[29]
SPI number Short title
1.1Satisfaction with service delivery (Police)
1.2Comparative satisfaction with service delivery (Police)
1.3Satisfaction with service delivery (racist incidents)
1.4Satisfaction with service delivery (CJS)
2.1Understanding local concerns (agencies)
2.2Dealing with local concerns (agencies)
2.3Residents' perception of police performance
2.4Effectiveness of the CJS
2.5Fairness of the CJS
3.1Minority ethnic police officer recruitment
3.2Female police officer representation
4.1Perception of anti-social behaviour
4.2Perception of drunk or rowdy behaviour
4.3Perception of drug use/drug dealing
5.1Serious violent crime rate
5.2Serious acquisitive crime rate
5.3Assaults with less serious injury rate
5.4Domestic homicide rate
5.5Gun crime rate
5.6Knife crime rate
6.1Serious violent offences brought to justice
6.2Serious acquisitive offences brought to justice
6.3Sanction detection rate for racially and religiously aggravated crimes
6.4Serious sexual offences brought to justice
7.1Deliberate fires
8.1Asset recovery
9.1Road traffic casualties
10.1Prolific and other Priority Offender re-offending rate
11.1Adult re-offending rate
11.2Youth re-offending rate
11.3First time youth offending
12.1Police service efficiency
13.1Police officer sickness absence rate
13.2Police staff sickness absence rate

29. Generic targets for offences brought to justice and sanction detection are no longer part of the performance indicators. 'Offences brought to justice' and 'sanction detection' rates that are required to be measured are for serious crimes, including 'most serious' offences, serious acquisitive offences, racially and religiously aggravated crimes, and serious sexual offences. The new Public Service Agreements announced as part of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review also emphasise serious crime and are intended to give local police and partner agencies more discretion in what they prioritise.

30. ACPO has welcomed the Government's change of focus from volume crime (crime categories of a statistically high incidence) towards serious crimes. However, the Association still has some misgivings about the way in which the Government measures performance:

    The qualitative aspects of the service are often overlooked or underwritten. The narrow focus on quantitative targets extends to some of the current proposals around APACS targets for serious and organised crime and even counter-terrorism. These types of offending just simply do not lend themselves to quantitative metrics.[30]

Paul McKeever also advocated a move towards more qualitative assessment:

    Clearly, it [performance] has to be evaluated, but at the moment it is done really just on a statistical basis. You have to have it evaluated by good quality supervisors, at sergeant level and inspector level, as well. The public, surely, want to have those supervisors out on the street making sure that critical incidents are dealt with, and the public are being dealt with, in a fashion that is of a high quality rather than just looking at the amount of work that is produced. I think that hands-on supervision is a very important aspect of how things should go in the future as well, rather than just looking at the statistical data.[31]

31. The Government is currently consulting on further proposals that the Home Office will no longer set or maintain top-down numerical targets for individual police forces; that the Home Office will no longer make graded assessments under APACS (although the framework will remain); and that HMIC, rather than the Home Office, will take the lead in making qualitative assessment of performance.[32]


32. If officers were under less pressure to meet quantitative targets, they would be able to use a greater degree of discretion in dealing with incidents. This would allow them to consider the needs of the victim in how an investigation should be taken forward, and also the right course of action for an offender, judged on the seriousness of the offence. This approach was supported by a number of witnesses, including Nottinghamshire Police Authority and the Youth Justice Board. However, we note Liberty's argument that "broadly defined discretionary powers … place a massive burden on individual officers".[33]

33. An increase in discretion would require effective supervision on the part of sergeants and inspectors who oversee the work of police constables, to ensure consistency in standards. A thematic inspection published by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) earlier in 2008, Leading from the frontline, found widespread variation in standards of leadership and supervision, owing to both a lack of clarity as to what was expected of frontline sergeants, and skills gaps. 63% of the 4,200 sergeants who responded to a questionnaire undertaken for the review had not received role-specific training. Only 59% felt that they were prepared for the rank of sergeant when they were promoted. Only 30% were satisfied with the way their forces prepared them for the rank. The report also found that in many cases sergeants were no longer challenging their team on poor behaviour. HMIC made a series of recommendations to be taken forward by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), including development of national standards for the role of sergeant, more role-specific training for frontline sergeants and a review of promotion processes to ensure only suitable candidates undertake the role. [34]


34. Several organisations wrote to us to express their concern about the absence of fraud, including identity fraud, from performance targets. CIFAS, a membership organisation which describes itself as the UK's non-profit fraud prevention data sharing scheme, stated:

The City of London Police added "It is important to note that the National Community Safety Plan does not mention fraud and, accordingly, fraud is not seen as a priority for most forces".[36]

35. It is estimated that fraud costs the UK £13.9 billion annually.[37] A survey carried out in 2007 by life assurance firm CPP established identity fraud as the number one worry for the public.[38] Precise figures on identify fraud are hard to come by, but in Realising Britain's Potential: Future Strategic Challenges for Britain, the Cabinet Office stated that during the first half of 2007, "nearly 32m illegal attempts to acquire personal information electronically were detected worldwide, an increase of more than 150% over the previous six months".[39]

36. To emphasise the extent of criminal activity in this area, Navigant Consulting provided us with information on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels, one means of online communication in which personal data are exchanged. Their recent study of activity in this area found that 16,000 card numbers were collected over a week. They argued that:

    Awareness remains low. This was illustrated recently by Sir Ronnie Flanagan's Review of Policing, which made no reference to the Internet, or the challenges to policing posed by online activity. We acknowledge that the online space is only one area of focus for 21st Century policing; however, we believe it is a key growth area for criminals in future and should be addressed as a priority.[40]

37. Fraud investigation requires high levels of training and expertise. With the exception of the City of London Police, which has been designated as the lead force for delivering the Government's fraud strategy, forces find it difficult to dedicate resources to an area which is not designated by the Home Office as a priority.

38. The current system of measuring police performance has distorted operational priorities, criminalised many individuals for trivial misdemeanours, and prevented forces from focusing on what is important locally. There is much to be welcomed in initial attempts to reform the performance framework. We are pleased that the generic targets for offences brought to justice and sanction detections, which encouraged forces to focus on the easiest crimes to resolve rather than those which have the most significant impact on public safety, have been removed from the 2008/09 statutory performance indicators. These changes should be reflected in local practice and must be reinforced by an alignment in performance measures between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. We support the Government's proposal to end top-down numerical targets, as set out in the Green Paper. The shift towards greater performance monitoring at a local level will require that police authorities are properly resourced to undertake this role.

39. We are disappointed that fraud is not a police priority, given that it is estimated to cost the UK nearly £14 billion per year and identity fraud is a cause of major public concern. We recommend that forces are required to give greater priority to tackling fraud and are allocated sufficient resources to carry out this function.

40. There should be a greater focus on the qualitative aspects of police performance. We accept that it is inappropriate to measure performance on counter-terrorism and serious and organised crime through quantitative targets and the Home Office should devise a different means of measuring performance in this area.

41. Officers should be given greater discretion so that they can deal with incidents in the most appropriate way, particularly from the perspective of the victim, but also for the perpetrator and the criminal justice system as a whole. But the success of this measure relies on effective supervision from frontline sergeants. To this end, we urge the Government to facilitate speedy implementation of HMIC recommendations for national standards for the role of sergeant, training for frontline sergeants and review of promotion processes. We also seek assurances that training for all new officers will help to ensure that they are confident to use their discretion, and the public can have confidence in them to do so.

Public expectations of the police

Low public confidence

42. At our Monmouth seminar, the Deputy Chief Constable of Gwent Police, Mick Giannasi, told us that whilst crime in Gwent had fallen consistently, more crimes had been detected and more offenders brought to justice, local people still believed that crime was increasing, they felt less safe and were generally less satisfied with the police.[41] This is representative of the national picture. Since peaking in 1995, crime measured by the British Crime Survey has fallen by 48%.[42] However, according to the most recent national survey, 65% of people thought crime in the country had increased over the past two years, though only 39% thought it had risen in their local area. Only 53% of people thought that the police in their area did an excellent or good job in 2007/08.[43]

43. Louise Casey, who was commissioned by the Government to investigate public attitudes towards to the criminal justice system in 2008, concluded that:

    Most of the public do not believe the official statistics on crime—they think the statistics miss some important crimes and that many minor crimes go unreported. They have lost trust in how figures are relayed to the public—with 'cherry-picking' of figures by the media, politicians of all parties, professionals and single-interest lobby groups.[44]

Whilst she argues that concerns are partly fuelled by media coverage of violent crime, Ms Casey states that:

    It would be wrong to dismiss public concern about crime as nothing more than a gap between perception and reality. That is not the case. The crime, anti-social behaviour and disrespect that the public see and experience themselves, and their perceptions and worries about crime more generally, make communities feel unsafe.[45]

The revelation in October 2008 that some police forces had failed to record a number of criminal offences in the correct category, meaning that serious violence was in fact 20% higher than shown in official figures, has only increased this mistrust.[46]

44. The Mayor of London advocated the publication of maps depicting local crime hotspots as a means of informing the public about crime in a way they can trust:

    Crime mapping, if done sensitively with regard to what is happening in the broad locality, can be very useful in informing people of what is really going on in their neighbourhood. Sometimes the news will be good in the sense that they may have an impression of criminality which is completely underserved. When there is bad news, it will give people a vital tool to enable them to go to the police and say, "We have this problem in our street. Nothing is being done about it. You sort it out".[47]

45. Although some concerns have been raised about the implications of crime-mapping for reinforcing negative impressions of certain neighbourhoods, the accuracy and reliability of crime mapping, and the potential for maps to act as an "encyclopaedia" of vulnerable areas,[48] there appears to be general support for the measure amongst the public and across political parties. As of September 2008, maps depicting robbery, burglary and vehicle crime on a sub-ward basis were available in London, Hampshire, Lancashire, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire. According to the Green Paper, all police forces in England and Wales will publish crime maps by the end of 2008.[49]

46. Low levels of public confidence in the police and distrust of crime statistics are in part driven by a lack of clear information about local crime and police activity. The public should be provided with better information about crime levels in their neighbourhood. Neighbourhood crime mapping appears to be a useful means to achieve this, but the Home Office should be alert to the potential for criminals to use this information to target certain areas. Local police successes should also be publicised in more detail, to reassure the public in a way in which outline crime reduction statistics do not. The Government should consider how this information can be provided in a way that is genuinely accessible. In addition to improving trust and confidence, this information should prove a useful tool in setting neighbourhood policing priorities that genuinely reflect local problems. As a matter of course, police forces should make available to the media the general details of criminal activities that have been reported to the police.


47. Surveys conducted for Sir Ronnie Flanagan's Review of Policing showed that, in terms of the public's expectation of the police, their main concern was over "their encounter with the police, that it is a good, effective, professional and courteous encounter and when the police are needed in their view the police are available".[50] This desire for better availability was reinforced by Helen Newlove, who has campaigned for a more responsive police service following the murder of her husband, Gary Newlove, in 2007:

    They did not come out because if it is just criminal damage they do not come out. It is not necessary for them to respond to it … The police came after the event, so there was no policing. We have been told on the phone that we are fifteenth down the line and that they are too busy in Warrington town centre.[51]

48. Anecdotal evidence from our own constituencies suggests that people are unhappy that the police do not take action against criminal damage, anti-social behaviour, and harassment; and they are frustrated that they often do not receive a response from the police once they have reported a crime. In one case reported in the national press, a couple who dialled 999 to report a burglary at a neighbour's home in Cambridge received a text message from a police officer an hour later asking them to investigate the matter themselves, as officers were too busy to attend the crime.[52]

49. This anecdotal evidence was supported by the results of the British Crime Survey for 2007/08. Only 43% of people thought the police could be relied on to deal with minor crimes, 48% believed they would be there when needed and 51% thought the police were dealing with issues that matter to the local community. Only 41% of those who had been both a victim and a witness rated the local police as doing a good or excellent job compared with 57% of those who had not experienced crime.[53] While the renewed focus on serious crime detailed above may help the police to prioritise their work in a way in which they consider is more appropriate, it is unlikely to alleviate the concerns of a public who are already concerned the police are not sufficiently active in dealing with minor crime and anti-social behaviour.

50. The number of complaints against the police is rising. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) told us that 28,998 complaint cases were recorded during the year 2006/07, an increase of 10% on the previous year. 45% of complaints were allegations of neglect/failure of duty and incivility. The IPCC concluded:

    The complaints data certainly suggests that the police service must take action to address the rising number of complaints concerning neglect/failure of duty and incivility if public confidence in policing is not to be adversely impacted.[54]

While the number of individuals who complained in 2007/08 remained constant at 28,963, the number of overall allegations rose by 5% to 48,280 (or 1.7 per individual).[55]

51. The Police Federation shared the IPCC's concern about the impact of increasing number of complaints about the police on public consent for policing, from which the police derive their authority. Paul McKeever told us "It [public consent] is weakening, I am pretty sure of that. The regard that the police were held in even a few years ago has changed somewhat and it is on a downward slope at this moment in time".[56]

52. Stockport Police is carrying out trials to improve public satisfaction with their encounters with the police by changing the way in which they respond to callers: appointments are scheduled with low-priority callers so that an officer attends at a time that is convenient for the caller. Fewer complaints have been received since this has been initiated.[57] The Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, Sara Thornton, told us the force had carried out a pilot project in which callers had been given the option of whether or not they would like an officer to attend, which had resulted in much higher satisfaction rates.[58]

53. The public do not always know how to contact the police in a non-emergency situation, and indeed whether or not it is appropriate to contact them rather than a different agency. Of the 10 million 999 calls made in 2004, 70% were not for genuine emergencies, and less than 30% of people surveyed by the Home Office knew about local council or police non-emergency lines.[59] The Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Len Duvall, believed that it should be easier for people to help the police with their inquiries:

    We know people want to help. They do not want to spend hours on the phone if they go through the main switchboard; they do not want to walk into a police station where there may be other people doing other things and have to report issues, so if we can separate off people giving non-emergency information that can be important to solving other crimes at certain times that is the key.[60]

The new Mayor of London noted that this kind of step had been taken in New York:

    There is one thing that the Mayor of New York told me about that I think is a very good idea, and that is the use of a hot line number, not to go to the police, which would enable you, if you have a difficulty with a pothole or whatever it happens to be, or you want to know why some graffiti has not been cleaned up. You can go to a central number and then we will get on to the relevant borough and sort it out.[61]

54. The Home Office funded pilots for a single non-emergency number, 101, in 2006 in five sites covering 10% of the population of England and Wales. Despite evidence to show the scheme was proving successful, the Home Office decided to withdraw funding, although three of the five pilot areas—Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Cardiff and Sheffield—have chosen to continue funding the service themselves.[62] We consider this would have been a useful initiative to improve accessibility and customer service, as well as facilitating better partnership working between the police and the local authority to deal with low-level crime and anti-social behaviour.

55. A 2003 ICM poll found that few people knew the name of a local police officer.[63] The Prime Minister announced in February 2008 that all members of the public would have access to the mobile telephone numbers of their local neighbourhood officers. ACPO's view is that an individual telephone number can be provided across the service, although not necessarily a mobile telephone number.[64] Chief Superintendent Steve Kirk, of Reading Police, said:

    It is deliverable … I am not sure whether it will be in exactly that format. There are mechanisms that we can use to make sure that people are contactable … We have to bear in mind that officers are not on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is about making sure that when people do contact us they contact us in the right manner to deal with the problem they face … I have found that, because of the added visibility [brought about by neighbourhood policing] … people find it very easy to contact us on a face-to-face basis rather than having to phone us to speak to their local officer.[65]

56. The majority of the public do not have confidence in the police's ability to deal with minor crime and to be there when they are needed. While, on the one hand, we support the renewed focus on serious crime as a way for the police to focus their attentions on this important area of work, on the other, we are concerned that minor crime and anti-social behaviour, which are of great concern to the public, will continue to lack sufficient police attention.

57. We were impressed with trials undertaken in some forces to give members of the public who contact the police in a non-emergency situation more choice of whether and when they would like an officer to attend. Forces should take note of this approach as a way of increasing public satisfaction.

58. Members of the public are often unsure of how to contact the police in a non-emergency situation, which results in misuse of the 999 emergency number and delays in reporting and resolving low-level crime and anti-social behaviour. We are disappointed that the Home Office withdrew funding from the single 101 non-emergency number, which would have helped to resolve this situation. We recommend that central funding for the single 101 non-emergency number be reinstated and that the scheme be implemented across England and Wales.

59. We support the principle behind providing local people with mobile numbers for their neighbourhood officers, but in this form the proposal is impracticable, given that neighbourhood officers are not always on duty. It may be more appropriate for forces to reconfigure call-handling procedures to ensure that members of the public can access local information and be directed to the relevant local officer.


60. One of the public's key requirements of the police is that they should be visible. The East Midlands collaboration, representing the five police forces and authorities of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire, suggested that people tended to be more concerned about what was happening, or what they perceived to be happening, in their immediate neighbourhood, adding: "They want to be reassured by more visible policing".[66] The ICM poll cited above asked members of the public to prioritise activities they wished the police to spend most time on: they chose preventing crime, community policing and foot patrol, which are "all about the deterring effect of a visible, uniformed officer walking around the neighbourhood".[67]

61. Early evaluations of neighbourhood policing demonstrate that increased foot patrol can be effective in improving public confidence and reducing fear of crime, although it is more difficult to prove links with crime reduction. The former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, believed foot patrol did have a deterrent effect:

    We introduced 21 teams of 18 PCSOs in the outer London boroughs around transport modes, particularly targeting the buses, and crime by under-16s has fallen 19% in the 12 months following. So, all those academics, Home Office and Treasury people who told us for decades that putting police on the streets was a waste of money, I think, have been demonstrated to be wildly wrong.[68]

62. A 2001 study by the Home Office, based on diaries kept by individual police officers, found that the average officer spent 57% of his or her time outside the police station. 30% of this time was spent on patrol and 41% on responding to incidents.[69] In 2007/08, 13.8% of officers' time was spent on patrol and 64% of their time on 'front-line duties'.[70] Our predecessor Committee raised concerns about the Government's definition of 'front-line policing':

    We are … worried by the Minister's definition of 'front-line policing' as including work in the police station on case files and report preparation. These tasks may be essential but they are not what most people would consider to be 'street policing'. Their inclusion therefore skews the statistics and gives an exaggerated impression of the Government's success in returning police officers to street duties. We recommend that the definition of 'front-line policing' should be changed to exclude time spent dealing with paperwork indoors.[71]

The East Midlands collaboration agreed:

    The public almost certainly do not understand the breadth of activity covered by the measure. They see it as a measure of visible policing. This begs the question what purpose does this measure serve? Additionally, gathering data for the measure adds to the bureaucracy facing police officers. The current definition of frontline policing has been around for many years so it is perhaps timely to re-visit it in light of the changing face of policing.[72]

The Frontline Policing Measure has been removed from the 2008/09 indicators.[73]

63. The public want a more visible police service. We support greater use of visible patrols as a key component of neighbourhood policing and a means of increasing public confidence in the police and, potentially, deterring crime. We welcome the Government's removal of the front-line policing measure from the statutory performance indicators, because the range of activities included within it had the potential to mislead the public as to its meaning. Rather, the Home Office should keep the public informed of the amount of time officers spend on visible patrol.

3   T. Newburn, "Policing since 1945", in T. Newburn (ed.), Handbook of Policing, Cullompton: Willan, 2003, p 87 Back

4   Police Foundation/Policy Studies Institute, The Role and Responsibilities of the Police, 1996, p xiii; HC Deb, 9 June 2008, cols 83W-86W [Commons written answer] Back

5   Q 172 [Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison]; Ev 142 [Leicestershire Constabulary]; Ev 192-3 [Nottinghamshire Police] Back

6   Q 2 [Sir Ronnie Flanagan]; Q 782 [Chief Superintendent Dann] Back

7   Home Office, Review of the partnership provisions of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998: report of findings, January 2006, para 2.20 Back

8   "More than 3,600 offences created under Labour", The Independent, 4 September 2008,  Back

9   Ev 231 Back

10   Ev 291  Back

11   Ev 230, 232 Back

12   Q 782 Back

13   Ev 203 Back

14   Ibid. Back

15   Ev 234; Q 196  Back

16   Committee visit to Monmouth, 16 June 2008 Back

17   Quarterly performance figures for Local Criminal Justice Boards, published 31 July 2008,  Back

18   Q 117 Back

19   Home Office, National Policing Plan 2005-2008, November 2004, p 3 Back

20   Committee visit to Colchester, 3 March 2008 Back

21   Ev 159 Back

22   Ev 204 Back

23   Harriet Sergeant, The Public and the Police, London: Civitas, 2008, pp 28-30 Back

24   Q 638 Back

25   Ev 175 Back

26   Ev 160 [Policy Exchange] Back

27   Committee visit to Monmouth, 16 June 2008 Back

28   Q 794 Back

29   Home Office, Guidance on statutory performance indicators for policing and community safety 2008/09, March 2008  Back

30   Q 197; Ev 235 Back

31   Q 641 Back

32   Home Office, From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing our Communities Together, July 2008, pp 81-2 Back

33   Ev 175 [Youth Justice Board]; Ev 177 [Nottinghamshire Police Authority]; Ev 257 [Liberty] Back

34   HMIC, Leading from the frontline, July 2008 Back

35   Ev 166-7 Back

36   Ev 183 Back

37   Association of Chief Police Officers, The Nature, Extent and Economic Impact of Fraud in the UK, February 2007,  Back

38   "Modern life 'causes major stress'", BBC News Online, 11 April 2007,  Back

39   Cabinet Office, Realising Britain's Potential: Future Strategic Challenges for Britain, February 2008, p 111 Back

40   Ev 202 Back

41   Committee visit to Monmouth, 16 June 2008 Back

42   Home Office, From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing our Communities Together, July 2008, p 8 Back

43   Home Office, Crime in England and Wales 2007/08, July 2008, p 117 Back

44   Louise Casey, Engaging Communities in the Fight against Crime, Cabinet Office, June 2008, Executive Summary, p 6 Back

45   Ibid., p 7 Back

46   "Police blunder hides true scale of violence", The Times, 24 October 2008, p 3 Back

47   Q 854 Back

48   "Crime on the map", Police Review, 12 September 2008, p 45 Back

49   Home Office, From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing our Communities Together, July 2008, p 34 Back

50   Q 6 Back

51   Q 262 Back

52   "We dialled 999 … and police texted us to investigate the raid", Daily Express, 28 August 2008, p 9 Back

53   Home Office, Crime in England and Wales 2007/08, July 2008, pp 119-120 Back

54   Ev 218  Back

55   IPCC, Police Complaints: Statistics for England and Wales 2007/08, September 2008 Back

56   Q 639 Back

57   Committee visit to Stockport, 7 July 2008 Back

58   Committee visit to Reading, 24 April 2008  Back

59   The 101 website,  Back

60   Q 157 Back

61   Q 854 Back

62   Sir Ronnie Flanagan, The Review of Policing: Final Report, February 2008, p 71 Back

63   Cited in Harriet Sergeant, The Public and the Police, London: Civitas, 2008, p 4 Back

64   Q 198  Back

65   Qq 348-51 Back

66   Ev 222 Back

67   Harriet Sergeant, The Public and the Police, London: Civitas, 2008, p 4 Back

68   Q 56 Back

69   Home Office, Diary of a Police Officer, 2001, p 9 Back

70   "Pcs on beat for just 8 minutes an hour", Sunday Telegraph, 5 October 2008, p 8 Back

71   Home Affairs Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2004-05, Police Reform, HC370-I, para 127  Back

72   Ev 226 Back

73   Home Office, Guidance on Statutory Performance Indicators for Policing and Community Safety 2008/09, March 2008 Back

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