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Opinion:

Taking stock: After a decade of change, policing can no longer be called an ‘unreformed institution’

Policing has been accused of being the last unreformed public service. But, as President of the Police Superintendents Association Paul Griffiths reflects on his last ten years with the Association, he says change has been considerable and much has been achieved.

January 2020 marks my decade in the Police Superintendents’ Association. Over those 10 years, significant challenges have seen by the service and the people charged with delivering it.

Policing was described by some political commentators as an ‘unreformed institution’, which has caused me to reflect – is this really the case?

Policing was described by some political commentators as an ‘unreformed institution’, which has caused me to reflect – is this really the case?  Are we really a Service that is firmly, resolutely stuck in its ways with a belief that we don’t have to change, or can’t change? I don’t think so. 

It is all too easy to band phrases around for political rhetoric and gain, without a true reflection on reality. In my view, the last ten years have posed the most extreme tests to policing – perhaps the most challenging since its inception, and ‘reform’ could now even describe our ‘status quo’ in terms of what we strive for. Let’s review the evidence:

In 2010, the Government Spending Review announced that central funding to the Police Service of England and Wales would reduce by 20% over four years

In 2011, riots took place across England and Wales and Sir Tom Winsor released his first review into policing (the second review appeared in 2012)

In 2012, police authorities were abolished in England and Wales and replaced by democratically elected Police and Crime Commissioners. The National Police Improvement Agency was replaced by the College of Policing as the professional body for knowledge and standards

In 2013, The Serious and Organised Crime Agency was replaced by the National Crime Agency to protect the public from the most serious of threats.

In 2014, The Normington Review saw significant changes to the Police Federation of England and Wales. The Police Remuneration Review Body was introduced to replace the Police Negotiating Board and the Police Service introduced new direct entry routes and fast track promotion processes

In 2015, a new pension scheme was introduced based on the career average of an officer. ACPO was dissolved and replaced by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and tragically 130 people were killed and hundreds injured in Paris, following a coordinated terrorist attack, which impacted on the security arrangements for the UK.

In 2016, in the EU referendum, the country voted to leave the European Union. UK Intelligence and Police Services had their surveillance powers extended

In 2017, HMIC had its remit expanded to include the Fire and Rescue Service

In 2018, The IPCC was been replaced by the Independent Office of Police Conduct and appointed its first Director General.

Between 2010 and 2019 – Police budgets were cut by 19% and Police officer numbers fell by about 21,000

All these events haven’t simply happened ‘to’ our service, they have been part of a massive system of change and development that shows no sign of slowing down.

Volunteer Cadets, Police Apprenticeship Schemes and investigative entry routes were all created

There was a growth in the number of historical enquiries

Fraud, cyber-enabled and technology crimes have all risen at a significant rate

Vulnerability crime has risen as awareness grows

Mental health-related issues have now surpassed muscular-skeletal as the number one reason for taking sick leave

The police service has been preparing for exit from the European Union

In 2019 – The Government announced a 20,000 increase to the establishment of police officers

All these events haven’t simply happened ‘to’ our service, they have been part of a massive system of change and development that shows no sign of slowing down.

Unreformed?  Many would argue that our service is almost unrecognisable today compared with in 2010.

We live in times where change is constant – Instagram was only just launched in 2010, Netflix had only 10% of its current 167 million subscribers and the term ‘Brexit’ had never even been spoken.

But let’s celebrate what we’ve already achieved – how much we’ve already learned, and how far we’ve come. 

As the world continues to develop rapidly, as threats and challenges increase and ‘demand’ becomes a word that means so much, there is no doubt our journey of ‘reform’ could get quicker, more innovative and involve changes we are yet to even contemplate.

But let’s celebrate what we’ve already achieved – how much we’ve already learned, and how far we’ve come.  Let’s embrace the next decade of duty with the energy and drive of the last and continue to strive to be the best police service in the world.

This blog is reproduced with kind permission. The original can be read here


One Response to “Taking stock: After a decade of change, policing can no longer be called an ‘unreformed institution’”

  1. martin scoble martin scoble says:

    Paul, I agree with everything you mentioned in your article with respect to the impact of events on policing over the 10+ years. There have been some significant changes that have happened “to” policing. I suppose my observation and subsequent question would be “have the police (collectively and as individual Forces) properly understood the current and evolving demand over the last 10 years and developed approaches (including use of technology) to maintain pace, engagement with the public and overall effectiveness?”. I do not underestimate the pressure and demand officers and staff are currently experiencing on a daily basis; however, what is the plan to engage with the public in ways that the public want & expect? What is the plan to enable officers and staff to better use the information/data available and also spend more time on their core functions? Matt Hancock, SoS Health, gave a speech a few days ago about enabling NHS staff to become more effective and efficient through better processes and utilising current technology to improve outcomes – I would suggest the Policing family need the same approach. There are off the shelf solutions available now that could really help policing deal with their current demand in a more effective and efficient manner. Happy to discuss in more detail if you are interested. My email is: [email protected]

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