Policing is under significant stress
09 November 2017
“From speaking to officers and staff throughout every police force in England and Wales, we recognise that the pressures they face are significant and increasingly complex.”
This according to the latest annual efficiency report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire & Rescue Services (HMICRFS), published today (Thursday 9 November).
HMI Mike Cunningham, who led the inspection, said that while most police forces had risen impressively to the challenges they faced, “policing was under significant stress.”
Steve White, Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales said the latest report echoed what PFEW had been saying repeatedly and that the findings were “no real surprise,” and reported on issues “which we have been highlighting for years.”
“The demand on our already thin blue lines are too great, based on what we’ve been told directly by our members. Today’s report provides further evidence of this.”
The report highlights rising recorded crime – an increase of 11% the largest annual rise in a decade; falling workforce numbers – predicted to be nearly 3,000 fewer officers come 2020/21; demand on call centres for both 999 and 101 calls - up 10.5%, and increases in cybercrime. It also highlights the need for using technology and digital transformation to improve efficiencies and a need for forces to increase their planning around workforces and resourcing.
“There does need to be greater use of technology to help tackle the issues at stake, but technology does need investment and Chief Officers face difficult decisions when there is no money in the pot,” continued Mr White.
“The police service is well versed in making change and improvements in the way it delivers its service but with demand continuing to increase and fewer officers on the streets there is only so much that can realistically be achieved without proper investment, no matter how smart the technology is.”
“Our officers want to deliver the best service they can but are frustrated by out of date systems and lack of investment in technology to do their roles, among other things. At the end of the day what use is an iPad to complete paperwork on the go if there is no one to use it in the first place? We agree with the report findings that ultimately, this area requires adequate resourcing, investment and plans for the future.”
The report states that forces are trying collaboration and implementing large-scale change programmes to save costs and maximise existing resources – with varying success, but that police IT systems, remained “largely unfit for purpose.” The report also demonstrates forces are trying so hard to do everything with less in the tank that officers are now struggling and their welfare and wellbeing is being affected.
This supports recent studies on police welfare by PFEW which highlighted the punishing toll the current climate is wreaking on officers. Capacity to meet demand was generally viewed as insufficient with four out of five officers indicating that officer numbers in their team/unit were insufficient to manage demand and do the job properly.
“While the report is interesting, it doesn’t really say anything new – the question now is what will happen on the back of it and how will Chief Officers react?” said Mr White
National Police Chiefs’ Council Chair, Chief Constable Sara Thornton said:
"Police forces are determined to spend their money with efficiency and to innovate to adapt and improve our services. HMICFRS’s report on efficiency shows we are making good progress with most forces improving their efficiency and 32 forces graded as either good or outstanding. We’ve made £1.6bn efficiency savings in the last five years and predict we’ll save another £0.9bn in the next five. This is at a time when HMICFRS recognises policing is under significant stress from rising demand and reported crime that is increasingly complex with force budgets due to fall in real terms over the next three years.
“HMICFRS cites sophisticated analysis of demand, effective tools to help manage it and ambitious and impressive collaborative plans. While some forces require improvement in this area, HMICFRS recognises that forces with particularly difficult financial positions have more limited opportunities to invest to improve efficiency.”