Policing for the future Contents
This wide-ranging report examines changing demands on policing, and considers the extent to which the service is able to meet the challenges that these create. We look first at changing trends in crime and policing and the overarching problems facing the police service in England and Wales, such as funding and investment; then at three specific areas of growing pressure on policing—online fraud, child sexual abuse, and safeguarding vulnerable people; and finally at the wider, cross-cutting reforms that are required.
Our inquiry has found that police officers across the country continue to perform a remarkable and immensely valuable public service, often in the most exacting of circumstances. However, figures on police welfare paint a picture of a service under serious strain, and we conclude that forces are badly overstretched: the number of traditional volume crimes is rising, but the number of arrests and charges brought by the police is falling.
Policing is struggling to cope in the face of changing and rising crimes, as a result of falling staff numbers, outdated technology, capabilities and structures, and fragmented leadership and direction. Without significant reform and investment, communities will be increasingly let down.
We found that:
- Many ‘volume’ crimes, including robbery, theft from the person, and vehicle-related theft, have been increasing sharply after a long period of decline. While recorded crimes have risen by 32% in the last three years, the number of charges or summons has decreased by 26%, and the number of arrests is also down.
- Neighbourhood policing, which is vital to the service’s response to many types of crime, is being eroded: we found that forces had lost at least a fifth of their neighbourhood policing capacity, on average, since 2010.
- Without additional funding for policing, we have no doubt that there will be dire consequences for public safety, criminal justice, community cohesion and public confidence. We strongly recommend that police funding is prioritised in the Autumn Budget and the next Comprehensive Spending Review. The current police funding model is not fit for purpose: it is time to stop kicking the problem into the long grass, and recognise the true cost of policing.
We make a number of specific recommendations about three growing areas of demand: online fraud, child sexual abuse, and safeguarding vulnerable people. Whilst the police and Home Office have worked together very effectively on investment and reform to counter the changing terror threat, in these other areas in which demand is changing, they are struggling to respond. We reach the following conclusions:
- Only a tiny proportion of online fraud cases are ever investigated, and the police response to this form of crime is in desperate need of a fundamental restructure, with investigations undertaken at a national and regional level and local forces focusing on victim support.
- The private sector must do much more to reduce demand on policing from online fraud and child sexual abuse, and we make specific recommendations about the regulation of internet companies, including those taking insufficient action against indecent images of children.
- Police forces are woefully under-resourced for the number of online child abuse investigations they now need to undertake, and the demands created by the management of registered sex offenders.
- The Government should appoint a Commissioner for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse to work across departments and agencies, and who should produce a bold and comprehensive cross-Government strategy on child protection and the prevention of child sexual abuse.
- Forces should be mandated to provide a minimum two-day training course on mental health to all officers and police community support officers (PCSOs), and the Government should use the NHS funding uplift to achieve a significant reduction in the level of police involvement in mental health crisis work.
Drawing on over 90 pieces of written evidence and nine oral evidence sessions, we also reach a number of overarching conclusions about the future of policing in England and Wales, which must be addressed with urgency if the police service is to meet the challenges of the 21st century:
- Forces are failing to meet the challenges of the digital age. Police forces’ investment in and adoption of new technology is suffering from a complete lack of coordination and leadership, which is badly letting down police officers, who are struggling to do their jobs with out-of-date technology. We fear that the lack of digital capability has become a systemic problem through the service. The Government should urgently cost and scope a prestigious national digital exploitation centre for serious crime, in time to account for the required funding in the next Comprehensive Spending Review.
- Above all, policing is suffering from a complete failure of leadership from the Home Office. As the lead department for policing, it cannot continue to stand back while crime patterns change so fast that the police struggle to respond. Only a central Government department has the clout to drive national partnerships with organisations such as the NHS or with global internet companies, for example.
- Before the end of November, the Home Office should launch a transparent, root-and-branch review of policing, publishing proposals by the end of February, which should focus on the reallocation of responsibilities and capabilities at a local, regional and national level. The Government should also set up a National Policing Council—a transparent, policy-making body chaired by the Home Secretary—and a National Policing Assembly, comprising all police and crime commissioners (PCCs) and chief constables.