Home News “Noticeable differences between police and service they provide” states HMICFRS

“Noticeable differences between police and service they provide” states HMICFRS

by Brian Sims

The public receives inconsistent service from its local police forces, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has said in a new report. Following the completion of HMICFRS’ Integrated PEEL Assessments (IPA) for 2018-2019, the Inspectorate has found that, although many forces are performing well under pressure, the consistency of service across England and Wales needs to be addressed.

In the report entitled ‘Divergence Under Pressure’, HMICFRS finds that forces are still struggling to understand demand in their areas. This is preventing them from being able to use their resources well and plan for the future. Forces also need to ensure they’re determined to maintain and improve how they treat the public, in particular when it comes to using Stop and Search fairly and properly.

Key conclusions reached

The HMICFRS report concludes that:

*forces have greatly improved their ability to protect vulnerable people and support victims

*there is still a lack of capacity in neighbourhood policing to analyse and use intelligence

*the likelihood of the police bringing someone to justice following a criminal investigation is decreasing

*there are stark differences in the way in which forces investigate crimes across the country

Matt Parr

Matt Parr

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr said: “HMICFRS has published reports into all 43 forces in England and Wales. We can now reflect on the findings to consider what these mean for some sections of the public and to look to the future. Our assessments show that policing across England and Wales is largely in good shape, but we cannot ignore the fact that forces are providing services under the twin pressures of rising demand and falling resources. These pressures have not fallen equally across police forces. Some forces have risen exceptionally well to the challenge, but this generalisation misses some noticeable differences between police forces and the service they provide. This has resulted in members of the public receiving very different services provided by their local force, depending upon where they live.”

On how police forces protect people and prevent crime, Parr observed: “Forces have greatly improved their ability to protect vulnerable people and support victims. This area has seen the greatest improvement in grades since our previous inspection, but we have not graded any force as outstanding. Six forces had causes of concern highlighted. There are significant differences between forces in too many areas of investigation. All victims of crime have the right to expect that forces will allocate their crime to someone with the appropriate skills to investigate it.”

On how police force use their resources, Parr explained: “When it comes to efficiency, force performance varies widely. We graded six forces as outstanding and two as being inadequate. The variation between forces becomes starker when considering how well forces are planning for the future.”

On how police forces treat the public and their workforce, Parr stated: “We have graded most forces as good for their legitimacy, but it’s the pillar with the least movement in grades since our 2017 legitimacy inspection. It takes effort to maintain performance against a backdrop of reduced resources and rising crime. This also suggests there’s less determination to improve and less innovation in this area. Where policing has focused its attention, it has undoubtedly made improvements.”

Response from the NPCC

Martin Hewitt

Martin Hewitt

Responding to HMICFRS’ report, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) chair Martin Hewitt said: “I’m pleased to see HMICFRS conclude that policing in England and Wales is in good shape, with the majority of forces commended with good or outstanding grades for this assessment. The substantial effort from all forces to meet the needs of the public is recognised. The Inspectorate assesses that forces have improved their ability to protect vulnerable people and support victims, but there’s more work to do.”

Hewitt continued: “Policing has been under strain dealing with rising crime, demand that’s more complex and fewer officers available to deal with it. An increase in officer numbers in the coming years will help us to provide a better service to victims and ease the pressure on our people.”

In addition, Hewitt stated: “Police chiefs continue to work to understand new trends and evidential challenges and why victims lose faith in the system. Better understanding the demand we face can enable us to deliver a more consistent service going forward.”

In conclusion, Hewitt explained: “We will consider the observations made by the Inspectorate carefully, both nationally and within forces, to see what action can be taken to address areas of specific concern.”

Police Federation references “harsh reality”

John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “The harsh reality is that policing can no longer do all the things it once could, with some local forces struggling to respond to 999 calls in a timely manner. Police officers didn’t join policing to give a bad service, but the system is broken. Forces are having to make some incredibly difficult operational decisions on which crimes to prioritise.”

He added: “The only thing you get for less is less. It’s not rocket science. You cannot cut budgets to the bone and reduce officer and staff numbers by so much and then not expect there to be a consequence. This mess is not of the police service’s making. It’s the result of a decade of devastating budget cuts. We warned for years this would happen, but previous Governments refused to listen.”

Apter continued: “The public would be horrified if they realised just how few officers there are in their local areas to respond to incidents. It’s essential we have the confidence of the public and I understand the frustration of victims, but it is as equally as frustrating for police officers. It’s soul-destroying. No police officer is happy with this situation. Some of those crimes which are defined as ‘minor’ are the ones which can be the most impactive on the victim.”

In conclusion, Apter remarked: “The Government’s recruitment drive will help but it isn’t a panacea. We need a more cohesive criminal justice system, better IT and stronger infrastructure. What the police service so desperately requires is a long-term funding deal to enable all forces to return to a position where they’re properly funded to handle the challenges they face. Our police and the public deserve so much better.”

PEEL Spotlight Report: Diverging Under Pressure – Overview of Themes from PEEL Inspections 2018-2019

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