re-posted from Image copyright Getty Images Whether crime is rising or falling is hugely important. It can affect how much is spent on policing and other related services, even how people vote. But working out what is happening is not an exact science. ...
re-posted from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41149778
Whether crime is rising or falling is hugely important. It can affect how much is spent on policing and other related services, even how people vote. But working out what is happening is not an exact science. Reality Check explores the figures and what they mean.
When we talk about crime rates we usually look at two things: police records and the number of incidents reported in the annual 38,000-person Crime Survey for England and Wales.
Neither is wrong but the more difficult question is which best represents how much crime is actually being committed.
We are talking about England and Wales only, because Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate criminal justice systems.
Scotland has a similar survey on perceptions of crime that runs every two years, however, and in the most recent one, crimes committed against adults were down 34% since 2008-09 and 16% since the previous survey in 2012-13.
Crimes recorded by the police in Scotland are at their lowest level since 1974.
Discrepancies in the data
The England and Wales survey, which is conducted face-to-face and asks individuals about their experiences of crime, suggests crime fell by 9% in the 12 months to June 2017 compared with the year before.
In contrast, police-recorded crime went up by 13% in the past year. Violent crime went up by 19% and violence that resulted in injury by 10%.
The Crime Survey is generally considered a good measure of crime experienced by individuals because it is not affected by changes to how crime is recorded.
It also includes crimes that have historically been under-reported to the police.
However, it has some limitations. It does not cover crimes against businesses or people living in communal residences like care homes, prisons or student accommodation. It is also excludes crimes where there is no victim to interview, for example murders and drug offences.
And there is a time-lag in the survey, so the figures are older than police figures. This means the survey is very good for looking at long-term trends but less good at spotting emerging ones.
Questions regarding computer-based crimes and fraud were recently added to the survey but we don't have enough comparable data yet to include them in the headline figures. Including those crimes massively inflates the overall figure as they make up almost half of all crimes those surveyed said they had experienced.
Police records are a good measure of what's happening to well understood and well reported crimes like burglary. But it's not so good at capturing under-reported offences. And because police-recorded crime is so sensitive to changes in recording practices, it had its designation as a national statistic removed in 2014.
For example, the number of crimes described as "violence against the person" went up when two new harassment offences were added to the category.
Focused efforts from police to tackle certain crimes can also lead to higher levels being recorded.
While some of the recent rise captured by police is down to "ongoing improvements to recording practices", there does appear to have been a genuine rise in violent crimes, however, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says.
The statistical body's crime lead, John Flatley, says: "We judge that there have been genuine increases in crime - particularly in some of the low incidence but more harmful categories."
But, he says, this should be seen in the context of an overall fall in crime over the last decade, adding that the crime survey "remains our best guide to long-term trends for crime as experienced by the population in general".
The Earl of Lytton's full speech and responses can be seen by clicking this link :- http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldhansrd/text/151123-gc0001.htm#1511234000235 The speech follows on from the investigations following the death of Georgia Williams in West Mercia. Whilst having every sympathy for the family and sharing their view on the IPCC, scapegoating the officers involved is unlikely to have any impact on the 'gaming' behaviours they have been employing (cuffing a criminal damage to an RTC and the inappropriate use of non judicial disposals). The problem as we know is organisational in nature and the scale is no doubt being reflected in the exposure of such behaviours in domestic homicide reviews and complaints.
Lord Lytton raised the issue in a debate on the report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (reprinted below). His comments encapsulate many views of serving, retired and former police officers and as such it was though worthy sharing with a wider audience via this site.
The Earl of Lytton
Committee on Standards in Public Life 23rd November 2015 : Lord Lytton’s speech
Police: Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life
Question for Short Debate
Asked by The Earl of Lytton
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proposals they have to improve police leadership, accountability and ethics in the light of the report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life Tone from the top.
The Earl of Lytton:
My Lords, I am delighted to introduce this short debate on the report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, entitled Tone from the Top. My interest in police accountability is not original. It started with Lord Corbett of Castle Vale and his researcher, and the fact that I was able to source a PhD paper from one Dr Roger Patrick, which delved into all sorts of matters on the reporting of crime. I then raised the issue before the House in a short debate in March 2013. Subsequently, the Public Administration Select Committee looked into the matter. Following that, the Committee on Standards in Public Life made its investigation and report. I am delighted that the author of that report, the noble Lord, Lord Bew, as chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, is with us. I congratulate him on his committee’s report.
I continue by declaring what I believe is an important matter: the fundamental importance of policing in this country. It is a vital first service. It must command the confidence of the public at large, of business and of government. I pay tribute to the many officers who willingly face danger in the interests of protecting the public. There remains a high level of public confidence and support, even though it has taken a bit of a hit over recent years because of a number of high-level failings and revelations referred to in the noble Lord’s committee’s report. Stories continue to come out weekly, if not daily.
Responsibility for checking crime recording is claimed by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, so it is unsurprising that following the Public Administration Select Committee’s report, the Committee on Standards in Public Life turned its attention to the means of accountability set up under the coalition Government—namely, the police and crime commissioners and the panels that work with them. The Home Affairs Committee described this as the creation of,
“a system that relies on local scrutiny and the main check is at the ballot box”.
It also remarked that this comes round only every few years.
Since their creation, several factors have come to light. First, it is fair to say that there has been a bit of a democratic deficit in terms of poor voter response. That feature has not been improved on in subsequent intermediate elections for replacement PCCs. Secondly, many of the police and crime commissioner candidates came from party-political backgrounds. From my own standpoint—from where I sit in the House—I think that a greater degree of political neutrality would have been more appropriate.
Thirdly, some PCCs came to their posts with a history of police or allied area involvement. In some cases it appeared that this might—and in some cases did—impede their role of holding a chief constable to account. Fourthly, while PCCs have a sanction against the chief constable, this may not drill down to the culture of policing in the middle ranks. Example may be from the top, but leadership deficits pointed to by others may mean that this does not permeate through the force, leaving some cultural practices effectively unchanged and unchallenged. Fifthly, PCCs, and indeed their panels, seem to have had a reluctance to challenge anything remotely associated with what the police might choose to claim to be operational matters. I note that the CSPL report comments on the reluctance of one PCP to cross that line.
In respect of police and crime commissioner performance, the report makes some significant recommendations, which I shall paraphrase because I know that the noble Lord, Lord Bew, will want to flesh some of them out. They fall into the areas of standards, evaluation, sanctions, disclosure and transparency, objectivity in dealing with complaints and safeguards in appointment procedures.
Although the intention was that PCCs would better hold the police to account, that was never the only mechanism. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the College of Policing, the Home Office, parliamentary committees and so on all have a role to play, but it seems to me that none of the issues of “gaming” of crime figures, which I referred to back in 2013, has gone away. Dr Rodger Patrick—yes, the same one—tells me that it is continuing. He believes that it is institutional and, having seen some of his evidence, I have to agree with his interpretation.
Even HMIC seems to admit that police under-recording of crime may be significant, but then it gave the West Midlands force an improbably high approval rating of 99% for its recording procedures. However, at the very time that it was carrying that out audit, circumstances were unfolding which led to the eventual murder of Jacqueline Oakes in January 2014. Apparently the force knew about Ms Oakes’s killer and the history of violence and abuse. It seems that the IPCC has now served notices on 26 serving officers, seven police staff and two officers who have left the force in connection with this case. This suggests an institutional issue and a failure to record information—the precise factor that HMIC was supposed to audit. I am told that, subsequently, the West Midlands PCC examined 13 domestic homicide reviews from that force and found that in more than half of them there was a failure by the police to take robust action. So, even had incident reporting been as good as HMIC suggested, the resultant action was defective.
Middlesex University reported on West Midlands’s domestic homicide reviews in July 2014. This found that the process remained less than joined up, with many stakeholders, different and poorly integrated areas of focus and an absence of holistic management. Dr Patrick, whom I regard as a great expert on crime recording and statistics, has pointed out that the HMIC methodology of auditing forces’ performance is weak. Of course, we will probably never know whether these factors contributed to the death of Ms Oakes.
There is a line in the sand on the question of oversight of police operations. The definition of “operations” as a term of art matters and is based on understandings that go back to the 1920s or earlier. The details of response to an emergency, the sources of information used to disrupt criminal activity and the methodologies for apprehending wrongdoers would of course qualify as being operations. However, there has to be transparency and accountability by the police. If, as I apprehend, freedom from interference in operations can in certain circumstances translate in modern terms into a denial of any oversight rights at all, I think it is time to redefine what is or is not “operational” in this context.
In a conversation today with one of the police force deputy commissioners, other issues came to light, particularly in connection with youths in custody, where there are few, if any, common protocols linking the police activity with that of local authority education or social services departments. Furthermore, it seems that there are no protocols setting out the respective areas of activity of HMIC and IPCC and how these interleave. If either had a clear road map of their scope and activities, such a protocol would be unavoidable. So on one level agencies defend their turf vigorously; on others, there is unnecessary overlap; and, on a third, there are some significant gaps which erode confidence and ruin, degrade and may even cost lives.
My point is this: all the regulators of the police—police and crime commissioners, HMIC, the IPCC, the College of Policing, the Home Office and so on—are themselves to a degree embedded with policing, and I wonder whether this does not in some circumstances interfere with true independence and objectivity in holding to account those who need to be held to account. For their part, police and crime commissioners walk a tightrope: they need to work with their chief constable in a collaborative manner but yet be able to take the ultimate sanction if need be. But they can only be as good as the performance of other regulators permits.
I finish, with his consent, with a quote from the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Bew, at the annual Newsam Memorial Lecture 2015 hosted by the College of Policing. He said:
“It is no good preaching principles and codes in an organisation if, for example, promotions, pay and other incentives actually encourage something quite different. A number of investment banks had exemplary statements of values. But what was actually rewarded in them, right up to their chief executives, was excessive risk-taking and the pursuit of profit at the expense of customer service”.
So ongoing indifference, acquiescence, rewarding poor performance, an administrative Nelson’s eye, if you like, and poor leadership remain. Indeed, Tone from the Top is a prophetic title. This matters. Confidence in the forces of law and order and the cohesion of society are at stake—as, ultimately, is the rule of law. That is why this report is important for what it says and what it infers, and why it requires government attention.
Echoing the anger and annoyance of a number of articles at the lack of respect shown by the Home Secretary Theresa May and the Prime Minister David Cameron following the death of Constable Neil Doyle of the Merseyside Constabulary who was tragically killed in Liverpool six days ago.
May and Cameron are not usually so slow off the mark to show sympathy for the families of fallen officers. The lack of any form of communication from their offices on the subject seems to indicate the contempt with which they now hold the UK Police Service. This is perhaps a truer reflection of what the politicians really think of our boys and girls on the Thin Blue line, regardless of anything they may say to the contrary to serve their own political ends.
With Christmas approaching and a grim New Year in prospect, police officers throughout the UK were plunged into further despair with the news that PC Neil Doyle had died and two of his colleagues had been injured after being attacked following a night out.
Any death of a serving police officer under any circumstances is deeply felt throughout the service but sorrow became mixed with concern as suggestions began to emerge that the three officers had been attacked because they had been recognised by their assailants as police officers.
Whether that emerges as the reason for the attack remains to be seen, but this could hardly come at a worse time for police chief officers as morale continues to plunge with the announcements of additional cuts to policing which will worsen still further the plight of officers working on the front line.
Serving officers would not wish to make what could be described as political capital from the tragic and violent death of a colleague. Yet, within the police service, there has been an undeniable and growing concern that the constant vilification and denigration meted out by politicians and media across the political spectrum and indeed most notably by Home Secretary Theresa May, is having an adverse effect on the behaviour and attitude of those most likely to come into contact with police through criminality or anti social behaviour.
I wrote much of this post on Saturday 20 December and just hours later we heard the tragic news that two New York police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, had been brutally assassinated by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, apparently in some form of perverse revenge for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
When I returned home from a night out in the early hours of the morning I found the following tweet from New York governor, George E Pataki which read: "Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric." Governor Pataki then named New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and US Attorney General Eric Holder.
I replied thus: "We see this anti-cop rhetoric in the UK. Sadly it comes from the very top of government."
The weekend misery across the police family in both the UK and USA was compounded with the death of Tarpon Springs police officer Charles Kondek, who was shot and later pronounced dead at the Florida Hospital. One man has been arrested.
Officers in the UK are acutely aware of the very real threat posed to themselves on and off duty by UK jihadist fanatics with one alleged plot to kill police in London resulting in five arrests. Attacks on police officers by jihadists have taken place in Australia, the USA and over the weekend in France.
On each and every occasion officers have been injured but have managed to shoot dead their attackers. The catastrophic effect of similar attacks on unarmed British police can only be imagined.
Despite this, single crewing and patrolling remains the default position of most forces and officers are still forbidden to carry discreet protective equipment to and from work, when they feel at their most vulnerable. Discontent with single crewing has been exacerbated by cutbacks which means that in more rural forces 'back up' can be a life threatening distance away. Unarmed UK officers will note that their armed colleagues in New York have now been instructed to patrol in pairs.
Considering the constant stream of adverse comment it is perhaps remarkable that British police still retain a level of support and trust amongst the public that politicians can only dream of. The public however are not fools and can see for themselves either directly or via the plethora of 'fly on the wall' police documentaries the demands placed on front line officers.
Being recognised as a police officer, when off duty, by criminal elements and suffering intimidation, abuse, threats and even assault is not an uncommon experience as I can personally testify. Little wonder then that many officers instruct their children not to reveal their police occupations when attending school for fear of intimidation and bullying while others keep their occupation hidden from neighbours.
Another precarious issue for officers is intervening in incidents when off duty. Every day on numerous occasions, off duty police officers will produce their warrant cards and quietly resolve contentious issues without the need for arrest or indeed the threat of arrest. These incidents will normally be unreported and as such are an unquantifiable factor in keeping the peace on our streets and transport systems.
Not infrequently however, off duty officers will feel compelled to intervene when violent incidents occur without having the benefit of protective equipment, protective vests, radios or even the chance to go through the time consuming process of dialling 999. Indeed most of the frightening incidents I experienced during my 32-year career were off duty and officers have suffered serious injury or even lost their lives when 'stepping up.'
It has not gone unnoticed in police circles that although Neil Doyle died in the early hours of Friday morning, there has been no public comment from Home Secretary, Theresa May seventy two hours after the event. Some officers have made it clear that 'crocodile tears" from 'that woman' would not be welcome in any event while others have observed that her chief preoccupation over the weekend was the return home of foreign students who have completed their degrees.
Perhaps a more damning indictment of the broken relationship between the nation's police and government can be found on the Home Office website where there is, to date, not even the briefest factual mention of PC Doyle's untimely death. There are however two news stories dated 19 and 20 December concerning child abuse and human slavery which clearly demonstrates that the Home Office website is not left in a moribund state over the weekend.
At this moment in time UK officers have to contend with the fact that the edifice of British policing is rapidly crumbling, eroded by both cutbacks and politically expedient bile. Front line officers are discouraged from exposing serious policing shortcomings on social media yet enough comment is visible to see that UK policing is in serious difficulties and heading for meltdown with the additional cutbacks announced by the government recently.
The shambles that exists at UK borders and, however the government may spin it, the crisis within the NHS and social services inevitably places extra burdens on the fractured blue line which also has to endure the blatant disinformation of the government spin machine.
The death of Neil Doyle will place a further dent in police morale yet of course it is still 'business as usual' as far as devastated but committed Merseyside police officers are concerned.
Police force staff surveys and independent studies by bodies such as the University of the West of England show police morale at its lowest ever ebb. These, however, were carried out before the Islamist threats to police, the recent budget cuts and Neil Doyle's murder. Yet amazingly the government remain in denial content to quote dubious 'improving crime figures' as justification for their emasculation of the British policing.
At present, to quote a lyric from Gilbert and Sullivan, it would be true to say that not only is a rank and file UK police officer's lot 'not a happy one' but is becoming downright miserable. A further slightly amended line from the film Gone With the Wind sums up to perfection the government and in particular Theresa May's attitude to the police front line; 'Frankly officers, I don't give a damn.'
Her department's prolonged silence through the weekend in the wake of tragedy serves only to illustrate the point.
Met commissioner calls for radical merger of police forces
Britain’s most senior police officer has warned that cuts to police and other public services will put public safety at risk unless the next government pushes through ‘radical structural reforms’ to cut back-office costs.
Writing in the Guardian, Scotland Yard commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe stated that regardless of the general election outcome, “we are all looking at years of more austerity and shrinking budgets”.
And, in a move that clashes with government policy, he calls for the culling of more than 30 forces in England and Wales, to create nine super-forces, based on regional boundaries.
Sir Bernard noted that there are 43 police forces in England and Wales, but stated that criminals do not respect ‘county boundaries’.
“We need to be as flexible and aggressive as they are. We do not need the boundaries that currently mark out the territory of chief constables or police and crime commissioners,” he said. “Fewer forces would help us make the vital transition to digital policing. How many forces do we need? No more than nine, certainly, based on regions.”
His comments come just before the home secretary, Theresa May, is to give evidence in front of the Home Affairs Committee on her role.
Public safety isn’t just a challenge for policing. A range of partners is involved: emergency services, criminal justice, local authorities, the third sector, business and, critically, the public itself.
By 2020 the Met will need to have made £1.4bn of savings over a decade – about a third of our budget. We have saved hundreds of millions already, but from 2016 it will become a much harder task. Our partners face their own cost pressures, and the big concern is that if we don’t work together, with a shared view of the risks, public safety will suffer.
Why? Take CCTV. A factor in falling crime rates has been good video coverage of much of London. But most of these cameras are funded by local authorities. As they face more cuts there is active discussion about whether they can afford to keep CCTV going. Or take domestic abuse – a big enforcement challenge for the Met. It’s hard to get people to testify against their partners, and they often withdraw complaints once our officers have arrived and the violence has stopped – for a while. But society’s ability to reduce it goes beyond policing. It’s about a range of agencies – from social services to mental health – being able to intervene early and support families. If we retrench in isolation, the risks to public safety can only increase.
We have to have a shared view of the risks to public safety, from countering terrorism to child protection. We must be open about these risks with the public, politicians and the media, so we can together make informed choices about our priorities. We should share support services where possible, and make them as efficient as the best of the private sector. That means opening up all but core policing functions to competition. For example, why in London do we need three emergency services separately handling 999 calls and making similar deployments? Bring them together and it would be cheaper to run and more effective. With each blue light service responsible to a different ministry, there are obstacles to change. Will the next government be brave enough to bring together public safety services? Yes, it is a risk. But there’s a bigger risk to public safety if we don’t take radical action.
If that calls for courage, what about the structure of policing? In England and Wales there are 43 forces. The smallest has 600 officers, the largest, the Met, 32,000. They are based on 1974 local government boundaries, and in many cases emergency services are now the only county-wide services.
Do criminals respect these county boundaries? No, they don’t. They seek markets with high population densities to sell drugs and steal property. They pass local and national borders with ease. We need to be as flexible and aggressive as they are. We do not need the boundaries that currently mark out the territory of chief constables or police and crime commissioners.
Fewer forces would help us make the vital transition to digital policing. Law enforcement is being disrupted by digital just as much as businesses or government services. Cyber-crime makes the notion of jurisdiction less and less meaningful. In a cashless society of 2020, data will be the new currency. Electronic fraudsters will replace the stocking and shotgun robbers of the past.
We must act fast. Police spend around £1bn a year on information technology, yet there is no real digital strategy. Each force still has its own command and control, intelligence and crime systems. The IT companies are neither challenged nor engaged sufficiently by the joint endeavours and buying power of the police. We need a common infrastructure and to utilise cloud memory rather than serried ranks of hard drives. We need software based on apps rather than process pages. And we need many fewer contracts where the incentive is to save the public money rather than spend it. Get this right and we can have simpler, more effective processes. Bring us together and we can develop a common digital mission: prevent crime, catch offenders, help victims. How many forces do we need? No more than nine, certainly, based on regions.
In Scotland they have survived such a radical transition, and their furthest police post is as distant from their HQ as London is from Berwick or Cornwall. Holland has done it too. It can be done without diminishing local accountability. Policing is better for being managed and delivered locally.
And there is more to reform than structures. I am working with some of London’s universities to develop policing for teaching and research. It would help us develop evidence-led, professionalised policing and produce well-qualified recruits ready to apply digital and other skills to law enforcement. A policing faculty that included cyber-security could access a commercial income stream wider than the £12bn presently spent on policing.
Whatever we do, however we change, our people will be at the heart of it: public servants motivated by public safety, and our values of professionalism, integrity, courage and compassion. The Office of Constable has a proud and noble tradition, acting without fear or favour. We will not lose these values, but we must adapt to take on the challenge of keeping the public safe and secure.
Thin Blue Line Comment
As regular readers will know, we have been beating the fewer forces, regional or national service drum for many years now. We cannot help but wonder why BHH and any of the other new found supporters of mergers did not have the courage and vision to make the proposals earlier. Now he is in the top job, it seems unlikely that his position would be weakened by any mergers that might take place. It is lamentable that Chief Officers will only put forward radical innovative views when the consequences do not threaten the individuals career progression.
If you were the Chief Constable of a smaller force for example, are you likely to support reducing 43 forces down to 9 or 10, thereby threatening your fiefdom, career and political progression? The answer to this is only yes if you can put the public and the service above your own career aspirations. Unfortunately, the bulk of ACPO ranks have shown themselves to be self-serving and greedy, so the jury is out on whether or not the proposal will receive the majority support.
We have commented in detail in our previous reports that the time has come to seriously consider merging police forces. We have suggested that there could be as few as 10 to correspond with the regional areas. Finally, ACPO are being forced to accept this possibility, with Sir Hugh Orde conceding that the "overwhelming majority" of chiefs want to talk about merging 43 forces into more regional units.
These chiefs now accept that mergers will save money. The historic problem is that mergers were politically unacceptable to government, allegedly hard to sell to communities and don't sit easily with the plan for locally-elected commissioners.
When a member of the public calls for a police officer, does he/she look at the officers cap badge or insignia and say "Sorry you can't deal with my problem, you're not from my force area" Of course not, all they care about is that a police officer has turned up to help them. It is no more complicated than that, and any other objection to force mergers is pure obfuscation.
Until now, we would hardly expect Chief Officers to support a strategy that might reduce their number by 75% - after all, "Turkeys don't vote for Christmas". Times have changed though, and mergers must now be given serious consideration going forward.
EFFECTIVE USE OF RESOURCES
* 130,000 police officers * 60,000 staff - cost £2.7 billion * 17,000 PCSO's - 484 million * 17% Increase in ACPO ranks 1997 to 2010*** * 16% Increase in SMT ranks 1997 to 2010*** * 11% Increase in PC rank 1997 to 2010*** * Only 11% of warranted officers available for "Visible Policing" * ACPO and SMT ranks basic salary £230million
*** These figures prompt the question: "In view of there being a 17% increase in ACPO and 16% increase in SMT ranks and only an 11% increase in PC ranks, is there not an argument that there are in fact TOO MANY CHIEFS and an ineffective use of the resources of indians?"
Force by force, there is a top heavy ACPO/SMT and Police Staffing level. Force by force, there is a disproportionate number of specialist or non visible roles.
The policing cuts debate fundamentally comes down to a balancing act between visible and invisible work. Half a century ago, more than a third of a constabulary's manpower was spent on those foot patrols - nabbing burglars with their swag bags.
Today there are forces that dedicate just 11% of constables to patrols because they have expanded forensic units, intelligence teams and largely invisible public protection work like child abuse, domestic violence and sexual offences.
Given the political and community pressure to protect the "front line", most chief constables are planning to cut specialist units, even though they argue they prove their worth. And many chiefs think the pressure to focus on local "visible" crime will grow if the government's pledge to create elected Police and Crime Commissioners goes through.
But surely that's the point of policing? Dealing with what matters to local people?
The time has come to strip away those roles whose value is doubtful, and there are plenty of them.
The time has come for the rainy day reserves to be used to protect the front line. It's not just raining chaps, it's chucking it down.
The time has come for some tough decisions, the right decisions about how the tax payers money is spent. Locally elected police commissioners may not be popular among ACPO ranks and perhaps we should ask ourselves why.
Could it be that a fiscally wise commissioner might actually apply some common sense to the way our money is spent? Whilst this may expose the weaknesses and activities of our Senior Police Officers and their advisors, perhaps the public would welcome the return of the common sense, back to basics, no frills coppering. Perhaps then, we might actually see the good guys start winning and more of the bad guys being caught and dealt with. The Government set its heart on 43 Elected Commissioners being appointed to replace the existing police authorities. This was a poorly thought out strategy and the pathetic turn out for voting confirms the public apathy of the subject. As our previous reports have shown, 10 regional forces as opposed to 43 at present, would bring major benefits:-
The ACPO and SMT ranks could be reduced by as much as 75% (Basic salary costs are in the region of £230million)
10 regional HR departments (or even 1 central unit) would shave thousands of duplicated police staff roles, save millions and prevent the necessity for front line cuts. (Police staff costs were in the region of £2.6billion in 2009/10). This could be repeated for IT and other departments.
10 regional forces could save millions on an ongoing basis through centralised procurement of uniform, vehicles and other non staffing services. (Forces currently spend £2.7billion per year on non staffing costs).
10 regional forces would enable the more appropriate allocation of the reserve funds in force bank accounts amounting to £1.2billion which is coincidentally the amount forces are being asked to shave off their budget.
10 regional forces would require only 10 Locally Elected Police Commissioners instead of 43. Perhaps someone from the Government would explain why this rationale seems to have been overlooked or ignored? Or perhaps there are local authority jobs that are being protected rather than ensuring front line resources are ring fenced?
The pressures Chief Constables are under to deliver the Government cuts, is we fear, creating a somewhat short sighted approach. Without a more long term perspective that would save many millions or billions more, Chief Officers are forced to be parochial and consider only their own forces and how they will meet the Government demands. This could indeed have disasterous consequences to essential services, unecessarily in our view.
Perhaps this is a consequence of the 5 year administration system that compels a Government to want to be seen to be achieving something within that period, rather than implementing a longer term strategy that would be more effective?
Many of the cuts and savings could have been more effectively delivered by smarter volume central purchasing arrangements and sharing of resources. HR is an example. Why do 43 forces have 43 HR departments when massive savings could be achieved with one central HR function?
The same principle should be applied for all areas of procurement. Equipment and services sourced centrally would deliver millions in savings. HMIC predicted that £5billion could be saved by better procurement over a ten year period.
Police Force Governance – remove ACPO & PCC's SAVE ??? Millions
Police Force Mergers – saving predicted by HMIC £2.25billion (over 10 years)
Chief Officer Restructuring – consolidation of ACPO ranks SAVE £11million
Chief Officer Restructuring – consolidation of SMT ranks SAVE £80million
Remove Chief Supt & Chief Inspector ranks (alternative to mergers) SAVE £12million
Increase constable to manager ratio (recruitment cost savings) SAVE £169million
Increase sergeant to inspector ratio SAVE £178million
If ratio of 1 frontline staff to every officer of management rank SAVE £1billion
Police staff levels halved through mergers SAVE £1.3billion
Police staff overtime halved by mergers or tighter control SAVE £31million
Return 25% of office based police officers to frontline (recruitment savings) SAVE £670million
25% reduction in police staff support numbers SAVE £500million
Any one or combination of these measures was always achievable without the decimation witnessed to front line resources. Any one of them would return hundreds if not thousands of officers to the front line where they are needed most.
Yes there will be pain, but far better that than continue to risk the lives and safety of over stretched officers and members of the public who actually deserve a better quality of service.
The first challenge for the new Home Secretary and her team, is to root out those senior officers who have been singing off their own self serving hymn sheets for far too long.