Policing for the future Contents


Background to this inquiry

1.In January 2017, our predecessor Committee launched an inquiry into ‘Policing for the Future’. The Committee issued a call for evidence on a number of issues, including:

We held one oral evidence session before Parliament was dissolved for the 2017 General Election, hearing from academics, think-tank representatives and a then-Chief Inspector from Thames Valley Police, Katy Barrow-Grint.

2.When the current Committee was established, we decided to relaunch this inquiry, and held a further eight oral evidence sessions, along with an informal roundtable event on barriers to innovation and reform in policing. As well as hearing from senior leaders in the police service, including police and crime commissioners and chief constables, we held thematic evidence sessions on online fraud, child sexual abuse, vulnerability and ‘safeguarding’ work, and neighbourhood policing. Earlier this year, we visited the National Digital Exploitation Service, the Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit, and the National Crime Agency (NCA), including the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP).

3.Over the course of the two Parliaments, we and our predecessor Committee received over 90 pieces of written evidence from a wide range of organisations and individuals, and we wrote to all forces to request data on a number of subjects. The results of that exercise are detailed throughout this report, and further information is provided as an Annex. Additional input was provided by two excellent Specialist Advisors, Sir Peter Fahy, former Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, and Bob Atkins, former Chief Financial Officer for the Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC). We are grateful to all those who contributed to this inquiry.

Report structure

4.This report is not intended to be a complete review of policing, and we were unable to consider every issue relating to accountability, structures and the police workforce. Instead, it focuses on the changing challenges facing the police and their readiness to respond to them. In order to address both specific areas of rising demand and overarching issues facing the police, it is divided into three sections:

5.Our extensive inquiry has enabled us to examine a range of issues in detail, painting an overall picture of a police service which still has great strengths, values and expertise, but which is struggling to deal with the fast-changing demands of the 21st century, using systems and structures that have barely changed since the 1960s. We will show that the current structure and funding model for policing in England and Wales is not fit for purpose, and that the Home Office needs to demonstrate far more leadership on crime and policing—particularly in areas where crimes are changing, and where national reform is required.

Police officer welfare

6.This inquiry did not explicitly examine the welfare of the police workforce, but we feel it is incumbent upon us to acknowledge the pressures being experienced on the frontline. The results of the latest Pay Survey by the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales (PSAEW) and its Northern Ireland counterparts suggested that levels of morale and motivation among its members are decreasing. The proportion of respondents who reported low personal morale increased from 18% last year to just under a quarter in this year’s survey. A majority of respondents who intended to leave the service said that the impact of the job on their family/personal life had a major impact on their decision.2

7.Figures collected by the PSAEW in 2016 showed that half of surveyed superintendents had signs of anxiety and 27% experienced symptoms of depression. Over a third (39%) said that the demands of their job had increased by an “excessive amount” in the past year, and only 40% “agreed that it is acceptable for people to admit errors, be seen as fallible, seek support and admit they can’t cope etc”. Less than a third (28%) said that they had sufficient resources or staff to do their job.3 A Police Federation survey undertaken in 2016 found that 77% of 17,000 respondents worked on rotating shifts—mostly including nights—and 79% felt so fatigued that it interfered with their family life. The most frequent reason for working overtime over the previous 12 months was: “There weren’t enough officers on shift in my team/unit”.4 The mental wellbeing of respondents was said to be “considerably poorer” than the general adult population and other ‘high stress’ occupations.5

8.Since we launched this inquiry, six police officers have lost their lives in the line of duty, including PC Keith Palmer GM, who died while defending the Palace of Westminster from a terrorist attack. On a daily basis, officers are faced with some of the most exacting and upsetting scenarios imaginable, and deal with them with dignity, dedication and commitment to public service. Many people spend the worst hours of their life in the reassuring presence of a police officer: the aftermath of a violent attack, an unexpected bereavement, a mental health crisis, or the anxious wait for a loved one who has gone missing. Policing is a service which, above all, depends on the people who work within it, and if they are not supported then the service will badly decline.

9.We wish to put on record our immense gratitude to police officers, PCSOs, special constables and police staff across the UK for their service. We recognise the immense challenges inherent to any policing role, and the impact of this career on their health, wellbeing and family life. Recent figures on police officer morale and welfare paint a picture of a service under severe strain, which causes us serious concern. The Home Office must do more to protect and promote the welfare of the police workforce, who safeguard all our welfare on a daily basis.

1 Home Affairs Committee news item, Policing for the future inquiry launched, 9 January 2017

2 Police Federation, Police Superintendents’ Association and Police Superintendents’ Association of Northern Ireland Pay Survey 2017– Headline Findings, January 2018

3 Police Superintendents’ Personal Resilience Survey 2016: Joint survey of the members of PSAEW, ASPS and SANI, March 2017

4 Police Federation of England and Wales, 2016 Officer Demand, Capacity, and Welfare Survey

5 Police Federation of England and Wales, 2016 Officer Demand, Capacity, and Welfare Survey

Published: 25 October 2018