Public safety could be put at risk unless “profound and far-reaching” police reforms are urgently introduced, the chief inspector of constabulary has warned.
In his annual assessment of policing in England and Wales, Sir Thomas Winsor said, if changes are not made, forces “face unacceptable compromises in quality of service levels of public safety”.
Meanwhile five former Metropolitan Police chiefs warned of “the emasculation of British policing experienced in recent years” in a letter to The Times.
They wrote: “The reduction of police and support staff by more than 30,000, the virtual destruction of neighbourhood policing and the inadvisable undermining of lawful police powers such as stop and search, have taken their toll. Common sense suggests that these factors have contributed to the feeling of lawlessness generated by knife murders and ‘county lines’ drugs.”
In his report for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), published on Thursday, Sir Thomas called on police chiefs and politicians to make “bold and long-term decisions” to improve policing.
He said: “There are indications that some forces are straining under significant pressure as they try to meet growing complex and high-risk demand with weakened resources.”
In the report, which looks at the state of policing between April 2018 and May 2019, Sir Thomas said: “I believe some profound and far-reaching aspects of police reforms are called for.
“For these reforms to take place, leaders in central government, police and crime commissioners and chief constables will all need to make bold, long-term decisions.
“If they don’t the windspeed of police reform will fall to a flutter, leaving the police service increasingly unable to meet the demands it faces.
“The inevitable legacy of such an approach would be unacceptable compromises in both the quality of service the police can offer the public and the level of public safety and security the police can uphold.”
There has been a 19% drop in police funding since 2010/11.
In 2018/19, police funding amounted to £12.3 billion with a workforce of around 122,000 police officers and 68,000 police staff. This was around one police officer for every 480 people, according to the report.
In his findings Sir Thomas said also branded the criminal justice system as “dysfunctional and defective” as he said prison rehabilitation plans and support for inmates once they were released needed to improve.
He said there would be “major improvements in police effectiveness and efficiency” if the recommendations he made were carried out “competently, comprehensively and with resolve.”
The proposals include:
– Considerable investment in technology to keep up with and get ahead of emerging online offending.
– Introducing mandatory standards to prevent inefficiency and ineffectiveness in policing.
Policing has undergone more reforms in the last eight or nine years since 1829 when the Metropolitan Police was established, Sir Thomas said.
Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said: “The findings make clear that we can only deliver effective justice if all of the criminal justice system works together.
“To do that, all those with a part to play must be properly resourced, and as the report points out, that isn’t currently the case.
“Sir Tom makes a compelling case for long term sustainable funding.”
Policing minister Nick Hurd said: “We have already made progress reforming the police system but recognise there is still more to do and are working with policing leaders across the country to build a smarter, more efficient, system with crime prevention at its heart.
“Police funding has increased by more than £1 billion this year, including council tax and money to tackle serious violence.
“Police and crime commissioners have already indicated they plan to recruit over 3,500 extra officers and staff.
“We also recognise there are wider pressures on the criminal justice system and the Government is working hard to address these.”
The letter to The Times said: “The next prime minister will inherit the urgent task of restoring confidence in the police service, which has had its resources drained to dangerously low levels.”
It added: “Police and crime commissioners, however well motivated, do not have the skills or resources to address the emasculation of British policing experienced in recent years. If they become victims of crime, the public have perilously low expectations of the police today.
“This cannot be acceptable in our modern, diverse democracy. It is the first duty of any government to protect its citizens from harm. The responses to terrorism, cybercrime and the restoration of police resources and confidence cannot be provided by a fragmented system comprising more than 40 territorial police forces.”
The letter, calling for a royal commission on policing, is signed by Lord Condon, Lord Stevens, Lord Blair, Sir Paul Stephenson and Lord Hogan-Howe, who ran the Met from 1993 to 2017, as well as three other senior officers.