A 10 Point Plan for Policing

I’m sitting on a train bound for Cardiff where, later today, I will have the privilege of spending a bit of time in the company officers and staff from South Wales Police. I’ll be talking to them about the day I fell seriously ill and the reasons why I think it happened. I’ll be telling them about the long, long road to recovery.

I love policing with all my heart and soul – I always have and I always will. It’s a heck of a job though – placing the kinds of demands on people (body, mind and soul) that most of the rest of us would struggle to imagine, much less endure. Police officers go where most wouldn’t and they do what most couldn’t. I love them for it.

But as I look round me in policing at the moment, I see more good people operating under substantially more strain than at any previous point in my lifetime. Crime is rising – certainly crime of the most serious kinds. Levels of recorded knife crime are now the highest they have been since the end of World War II. Demand is rising too, not least as a consequence of the huge gaps that exist in the delivery of other frontline public services. Complexity is rising as crime crosses both geographic borders and digital frontiers. Risk is rising, with a deeply concerning number of officers being seriously assaulted in recent times. And all of this has unfolded over the course of an eight-year period that has seen 44,000 officers and staff cut from policing in England & Wales.

I have said these things on many occasions before, but it would appear that they still need repeating. Just this morning, the Police Federation for England & Wales – the representative body for the policing frontline – published the results of a demand survey suggesting that almost 90% of officers believe that there are not enough of them to be able to do their job properly.

The only surprise to me was that the figure wasn’t closer to 100%. We are now in a situation where we have fewer police officers, with fewer resources, doing a job that is more difficult, more demanding and, frequently, more dangerous that it has ever been before. And we cannot say that we do not know.

By way of constructive response, here is my 10 Point Plan for Policing – a quick-fire series of suggestions about what needs to happen now:

(1) Immediate & Substantial Re-investment in Frontline Policing

There is an absolute connection between police numbers and crime numbers. To suggest otherwise is to defy both common sense and professional experience. You cannot possibly take 44,000 people out of a critical emergency service and expect to see no change. 

I am not suggesting that policing has run out of things it could do better or more efficiently. Of course it hasn’t. But there is a fundamental difference between a saving and a cut and the threshold between the two was crossed a long time ago. 

The following parts of policing are in particularly urgent need of reinvestment: 

  • Emergency Response (including the capacity to patrol proactively)
  • Neighbourhood Policing
  • Serious & Organised Crime investigation
  • Safeguarding – both children and vulnerable adults

(2) An Urgent Public Debate about Policing

There is an overwhelming need for us to have a proper public conversation about what we want the police to be – and what we want them to do. Because everything can’t be a priority. I’m not talking about a Royal Commission. I’m talking about something that needs to happen now.

(3) Long-term Operational Strategy & Investment Plan for Policing

Once we have reached a point of agreement about what we actually want the police to do, we need a set of proper long-term funding arrangements that give them at least a fighting chance of being able to deliver. And we need an operational strategy that is drawn up and led by people who really understand the job.

Crime is not down and police reform is not working. 

(4) Minimum 10-Year Plans for Critical Crime Types

Both culturally and politically, we are living in impatient times, forever demanding quick fixes in response to the latest crisis to hit the headlines. But they never, ever work – problems that have been a generation or more in the making might just take more than a day our two to resolve. As I once heard a preacher suggest, doing the wrong thing faster won’t get the right thing done.

We need minimum Ten Year Plans for a whole series of critical crime types – domestic violence and knife crime prominent amongst them.

(5) Effective Statutory Partnerships

Mental health services are underfunded.

Youth services are underfunded.

Adult Social Care is underfunded.

And so it goes on, with policing picking up the pieces at almost every turn. That is entirely unsustainable – both operationally and morally. A person suffering from a Mental Health crisis needs to be treated as a patient, not a prisoner.

Every frontline service needs to be resourced to do the job being asked of it. And all of them need to stop calling the police at 4.30pm on Friday afternoon and expecting them to take up the strain.

(6) An End to 43 Different Ways of Doing Things

The old-fashioned model of 43 different police forces in England & Wales just isn’t sustainable. The world has changed and policing needs to change with it.

(7) Abolition of PCCs

There are some excellent individual PCCs out there, but the overall experiment has failed. Policing is far too important to be left in the hands of politicians. That is not an argument against transparency and accountability – I am for more of both of those things. But it is an argument for the reassertion of operational independence from political control.

(8) Acceptance of Independent Pay Review Body Recommendations

There should never again be a question about whether or not the goverment will accept the recommendations of the independent Pay Review body for policing. No one ever joined the police to get rich. But all of them deserve to be paid fairly for doing a job like no other.

(9) Review of Police Misconduct Procedures. 

Far too many police misconduct investigations – both those carried out internally by forces and those conducted by the IOPC – take far too long to resolve. There is a danger that we accept lower investigative standards when dealing with officers than we would ever countenance when dealing with members of the public.

Officers who are guilty of criminality or serious misconduct need to face effective justice. There is no place for them in policing.

Officers who are innocent of wrongdoing need to receive effective justice. They are needed urgently back on the frontline.

(10) A New Narrative about Policing

Finally (for now at least), we still need to change the story we are telling about policing in this country.

There are times and places when policing gets things terribly wrong, and we should never shy away from holding it up to the light. Society still has every right to expect higher standards of police officers than they do of anyone else.

But, for more than twenty-five years, I worked with heroes and I don’t hear nearly enough being said about them. We should be shouting at the top of our voices, every single day, about the extraordinary courage and humanity of the men and women who police our streets.

Closing Remarks

So there you have it. That’s my plan.

I suspect that the response of some will be that we can’t afford to do it.

To which my reply will be, we can’t afford not to.


Version 2

8 thoughts on “A 10 Point Plan for Policing

Add yours

  1. Some excellent observations and I agree with many. I am interested in the point about abolition of PCCs. If this were to happen what do you propose to replace them with. The old Police Authorities were impotent what, yes some PCCs fail to understand their role and stray far to much into the operational world but others are,as you say, very good. Policing needs to be accountable but who should do this?


  2. There’s another element that needs to go into this. The government need to stop bean-counting on crime, and we need to bring back a simpler, more effective way of dealing with low-level assaults – The Breach-of-the-Peace. The ability to arrest the protagonists and put them before the magistrates the following morning without reams of paperwork, interviews, disclosure etc. When was the last time you heard of that? And yet it used to happen all of the time.


  3. I agree with all you say but none of your proposals are likely to happen. The current (and following) government is going to be tied up with dealing with the Brexit fallout for the foreseeable future. They can’t even seem to plan much beyond next week let alone ten years into the future. The only thing that will force them to pay attention will be a police force collapsing due to a rise in demand and a falling resources and even then the response will be a shrug of the shoulders and ‘not our fault’. The press will push the message of incompetent police and we will be further down the rabbit hole. I foresee officers of Superintending rank and above being directly appointed to run the police under direct political control or to privatise certain functions with a view to making money. One thing that Brexit and the debate around it has shown is that our current crop of politicians on all sides of the house are, with a few honourable exceptions, inept, ignorant but supremely confident in their own ability.
    I believe we can only start to deal with the problems in policing and the public sector when politics is radically reformed. As a 62 year old white male I also think it’s time for political leadership to skip a generation and hopefully something better may emerge. I’m not holding my breath though.


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