New report states demands on police too high

20 April 2017

“We cannot realistically expect the police to meet every possible demand we might make of them,” so says Sir Thomas Winsor in his annual report on policing.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Thomas, has published the State of Policing: The Annual Assessment of Policing in England and Wales 2016.

Steve White, Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “This report echoes what we have been saying for too long now: something needs to change.

“Our calls, that demand on our already thin blue line are too great, have always been based on what we’ve been told directly by our members. Those are the facts they’ve told us – and today’s report provides further evidence that could be needed to support those.”

The demands on the police service continue to outweigh capacity, and Sir Thomas rightly makes the point that an informed public debate is needed so clear expectations can be set out. It is also important that the police service is honest with the public, in letting them know what it is they can no longer do, Mr White added.

Mr White said that the Federation fully supports Sir Thomas’ calls for mental health funding to be given the same priority as physical health.

“The drain of filling gaps created by other agencies, on an already stretched police service, is reaching breaking point. There needs to be proper investment in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues to both assist officers who manage individuals with mental health issues and, equally, assist officers who are dealing with mental health-related issues themselves.

“The use of police cells as a place of safety is not a good alternative to a hospital, and there are still problems facing custody officers who are dealing with mentally ill detainees because the appropriate NHS or social care resources are too often not available. Moreover, the issue is not just confined to custody, with the police usually the first to be called when there is an issue out on the streets,” he said.

Further investment in a co-ordinated approach to police information and communications technology is paramount, as Sir Thomas’ report highlighted, Mr White added.

“Police IT systems remain unfit for purpose. It is essential to have interoperability across the service, and up-to-date technology for officers to use.

“We know that there has been an explosion of online and cyber crime and this trend shows no sign of abating. As well as the right tools to investigate, officers must have full and comprehensive training in this changing nature of crime. If we want officers to be able to properly keep people safe, we need to give them to tools to do that."

Mr White continued: “It is right that police leaders be held to account for their role in ensuring the service provides the best to our public. Working towards better management practices, better investment in necessary ICT, and better understanding the needs of vulnerable people must be part of their plans for the future.

“However, while senior leaders could do more, it is important that the proper support and funding is offered to them for these changes to be achieved.”

Mr White said the report had come at an opportune moment, just as campaigns are beginning for the general election on 8 June, and he hoped those in power would consider the contents of the report.

“As recent events have shown, police play an integral part in the security of the nation. It is my hope that that security and policing in the future forms part of discussions in the build-up to the general election. If it doesn’t, it would be a disservice to the public, and to every officer.

“As Sir Thomas said in his report, ‘every day and every night, police officers do things that most of us go out of our way to avoid’ – we must protect policing, in order to protect the public.”