The first national picture of the breadth and complexity of work undertaken by the police service has been published by the College of Policing.
The extensive analysis shows the incoming and ongoing work of the police service and suggests an increasing amount of police time is directed towards public protection work such as managing high-risk offenders and protecting victims who are at risk and often vulnerable.
These cases are often extremely challenging 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%. On a typical day in a typical force, there’s approximately one officer on duty for every 1,753 people living in a force area.
Also on a typical day, officers in that force will make 50 arrests, deal with 101 anti-social behaviour incidents, respond to approximately 12 missing person reports, carry out 37 Stop and Search routines, deal with nine road traffic collisions and respond to 14 incidents flagged as being linked to mental health issues.
In addition to reacting to calls for assistance from members of the public, the police service will also be supporting 2,700 families enrolled in the troubled families programme, approximately 1,600 domestic abuse victims, 1,000 children subject to Child Protection Plans and managing 1,189 sexual and violent offenders in partnership with other local bodies.
The College of Policing analysis indicates that there are emerging pressures on policing resilience – namely decreased levels of police visibility and increasing requests for mutual aid. The report also shows that incidents involving people with mental health issues appear to be on the increase.
In some forces, public safety and concern for welfare incidents now represent the largest category of recorded incidents.
Changing mix of criminality
Responding to the survey’s findings, Chief Constable Alex Marshall (the College of Policing’s CEO) said: “The role of the College of Policing is to provide the people who work in the policing sector with the knowledge and skills they need to protect the public, cut crime and catch criminals. This work presents a clear picture of what the police are doing on a daily basis in local communities. In every force decisions have to be made about priorities and where to place resources. This analysis will assist in that decision-making.”
Marshall continued: “Evidence shows that, while the number of crimes may have fallen, the level of demand on police resources has not reduced in the same way. The changing mix of crime means that, over the past decade, investigating and preventing crime has become a more complex task while the costs of crime for the police have not fallen as much as overall numbers of crimes. Understandably, the more complex crimes such as child abuse and domestic violence are taking up more police time.”
In addition, Marshall stated: “The College of Policing will continue to build on this early evidence base by working with forces on developing consistent approaches to map demand and help inform policy decisions.”
Chief Constable Steve Finnigan, the National Policing Lead for Performance Management, commented: “Research on police demand by the College of Policing shows that, while recorded crime has reduced, demand on the police has grown in other ways as police officer numbers have decreased. It shows the breadth and complexity of modern policing which is about far more than cutting crime. Police are spending more time on public protection activities and both complex and costly crimes, such as child sexual exploitation, taking preventative action to safeguard people and dealing with vulnerability issues like welfare and mental health.”
Finnigan asserted: “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 demand on policing and other public services. That can only be a good thing.”
Measurement on efforts designed to cut crime
Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, believes a statistic in the College of Policing report – that 83% of calls to forces do not concern incidents of crime – calls into question Government claims that the police should just be measured on their efforts to cut crime.
“What this research shows,” 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 needs 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.”
“The report is a start,” suggested White, “but doesn’t give the full picture. What we need are year-on-year comparisons. Currently, all we have to go on are statistics from last year.”
The College of Policing report follows hot on the heels of the Office for National Statistics’s annual crime figures for the year up to September 2014.
Commenting on those figures, White continued: “Countering terrorists who seek to attack our way of life, managing sex offenders in the community, preventing child sexual exploitation, looking for missing persons, dealing with people who have mental health problems, policing football matches, pubs and clubs, conducting house-to-house inquiries and taking statements are just some of the key areas of police work not covered in the crime statistics.”
In conclusion, White stated: “Protecting members of the public is a growing area of policing. Losing 16,000 police officers and 16,000 police staff members – in other words the equivalent to seven entire police forces – is having a dramatic effect on the service’s ability to combat this growing issue.”
*Read the College of Policing report in full
**Demand Infographic: Analysis of National Demand on Policing