The first national picture of the breadth and complexity of work undertaken by the police service has been published by the College of Policing. This extensive analysis shows the incoming and ongoing duties of our police forces and suggests an increasing amount of police time is now directed towards public protection tasks such as managing high-risk offenders and safeguarding victims who are at risk and often vulnerable.
These cases can be extremely challenging, of course, and rightly require considerable amounts of policing resource.
The College of Policing study highlights that, in the past five years, the number of police officers has fallen by 11% while on a typical day in a typical force there’s approximately one officer on duty for every 1,753 people living in a given force area.
Also on a typical day, officers in that force will make 50 arrests, deal with 101 anti-social behaviour episodes, respond to approximately 12 missing person reports, carry out 37 Stop and Search routines, attend to nine road traffic collisions and focus on 14 incidents linked with mental health issues.
The police service will also be actively supporting 2,700 families enrolled in the troubled families programme, approximately 1,600 domestic abuse victims and 1,000 children subject to Child Protection Plans while managing 1,189 sexual and violent offenders in partnership with other local bodies.
Importantly, the College of Policing analysis highlights that there are emerging pressures on policing resilience – namely decreased levels of police visibility and an increasing amount of requests for mutual aid.
In some force areas, public safety and concern for welfare now represent the largest categories of recorded incidents.
Commenting on the report, chief constable Steve Finnigan – the National Policing Lead for Performance Management – has stated: “The research provides an evidence base that assists chief constables to manage their resources in a period of austerity. It also shows members of the public how we’re spending our time and encourages them to become involved in the debate about the demands on policing and other public services. That can only be a good thing.”
Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, isn’t so happy. White believes a statistic in the College of Policing report – that 83% of calls to forces do not concern incidents of crime – brings into question Government claims that the police should be measured only on their efforts to cut criminality.
“What this research indicates,” urged White, “is that using recorded crime statistics as a way of measuring police performance is both one-dimensional and simplistic. The Government’s argument – based on such a limited measure – that the police reform programme is working demands further and more sophisticated assessment. We need a wider debate around what the police service does, particularly at a time of great pressure on all public services.”
Given the number of police officers that may be ‘lost’ under ongoing austerity measures, surely now’s the time for serious dialogue – and determined action – when it comes to the private sector’s participation in law enforcement?
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK