Reforming policing to deliver safer communities
Welcome to the annual National Policing Conference. It's a pleasure to open today with fellow Chair, CC Gavin Stephens. Over the next two days we will look at how best to ‘reform policing to deliver safer communities'.
This is the only conference each year that brings every Chief Constable and every Police Commissioner, Dep Mayor & police Chairs and leaders together across the policing and criminal justice sectors under one roof to share ideas, best practice and to facilitate change.
It is the duty of police and crime commissioners, not just to reflect public concerns and sentiment towards the police, but to be able to reassure the public to help rebuild and strengthen trust and confidence in policing.
Eleven years ago today, the 15th November 2012 was polling day across England and Wales, when for the first time in British history, the public went to the polls to elect the first ever police and crime commissioners. This was one of the most significant changes in the history of policing, giving the public a direct say for the first time on local policing priorities.
Amongst us today we have some of the original Police Commissioners who were elected in 2012: David Lloyd, Katy Bourne, Tim Passmore and Alun Michael along with the architect of the legalisation that brought about those lawful elections, through the new Police Crime Social Responsibility Act - Lord Gordon Wasserman.
British Police Officers are some of the best law enforcement professionals in the world safeguarding thousands of vulnerable people each year whilst detecting hundreds of thousands of crimes. It is our collective duty to ensure that every citizen in the country feels safe and secure in their homes and neighbourhoods. In order to do that all police leaders have acknowledged there have been instances in the past where trust was eroded, and certain communities felt disproportionately targeted. These concerns were listened to, and a period of reflection and learning has gripped policing for the last two years.
Now is the time, post that period of reflection, to highlight the amazing acts of bravery, the dangerous people that are caught and the heinous crimes that are solved and prevented each year thanks to British Police Officers. It's time to be proud and it's time to reinforce to the public that they should have confidence in the work that is done in every community across the country.
We are national police leaders.
It is our duty to not only lead and or hold to account, but to also promote trust and confidence to aide feelings of safety in communities.
The public need us to do this.
Neighbourhood Policing has never been as important as it is today. By focusing on community policing and creating strong partnerships between law enforcement agencies and the people they serve, we can embed confidence in our communities. Through increased police visibility, less abstraction of neighbourhood officers, and time for meaningful community engagement, confidence in policing and feelings of safety will increase.
Accountability within police forces through senior officers and to the Police Commissioner, HMICFRS and the government is essential to driving up performance.
Whilst policing is key to preventing crime, it is imperative that we understand the root causes of criminal behaviour. Neglect, abuse and violence in childhood are the commonality amongst the vast majority of people committing volume crimes in Britain and the most hardened criminals. Understanding the link and cause is the only way to reduce the need on policing services and the criminal justice system in the future.
As a country we need to invest in preventive measures now to see the benefits in years to come. By 13 years of age, for some the lasting damage is done. That's why a strong and robust children's services department and a robust community health and midwifery team is key.
Explaining to a male perpetrator of domestic violence the damage he is doing to his children or to an alcoholic mother the impact her drinking has on her children, is often more impactful than explaining the impact on the individual's own health.
By LA's supporting families we can create positive alternatives pathways for young people, to steer them away from criminal activities and towards a brighter future.
Failing them as children and then locking them up as adults is not only wrong, it's avoidable.
But policing is not the solution to this societal problem. Health, education and local authorities are the ones that hold the key. This is why partnership working is more important than ever before.
Thanks to Police Commissioners we have seen a number of changes invoked over the last year. A review of Police visibility, the Chief Constable expedited dismissals review and the number of hours lost on mental health crisis calls and looking for missing people, especially those in the care of local authorities, have all be brought about after police commissioners highlighted the issues to ministers.
Following this, police professionals and PCC's have been instrumental in assisting ministers with understanding the existing practice and what needs to change or improve.
The digital age has brought us closer than ever before and is key in promoting and maintaining trust in safer communities. Body-worn cameras, online reporting systems, and social media platforms all serve as mechanisms for accountability and engagement. By embracing these tools responsibly, we are ensuring the public have access to accurate information and feel empowered to hold police commissioners, and the police forces we oversee, accountable.
In the last six weeks have seen significant improvements with Gloucestershire and Cleveland Police Forces coming out of HMIC engaged status.
The APCC has listened to all six PCCs who have experienced the process and are building a comprehensive support to assist PCCs and their offices in this area.
In terms of the expedited dismissals process, it is only right that when officers fall short of the standards expected, they are dealt with quickly and efficiently. It is vital that we have the right people serving the public, that taxpayers money is not spent building someone's pension pot for two or more years and that those officers who have no place in British Policing are removed promptly.
PCCs have supported Chief Constables to be able to investigate and to take swift and decisive action in making expedited dismissals. This is something I have impressed upon the government, and why PCCs welcomed the outcome of the dismissal review and the forthcoming legislation that will assist Chief Constables to do this. It is now for Chief Constables to continue to drive and set cultures to create a service we can all be proud of.
Police capacity has been boosted with an additional 20,000 police officers over the last 3 years. With this the public expects to see a more robust response to lower level offences. Robbery, vehicle and bicycle theft and burglaries are crimes which impact people's lives.
These crimes are still under-reported and the reason? A lack of confidence that these crimes will be investigated. Only we can change that.
Whilst welcoming the increase in new recruits, it has created something of an imbalance in police forces, between newer and more experienced officers. To ebb the experience gap we want to retain experienced officers beyond their pensionable age, to train and support over 1/3 of the police population which has less than 3 years in service. I have supported ministers in making the case to government for police pension abatement rules to be varied, so that retired officers can come back to the force for a set period of time with their pension lump sums protected. I hope that this straightforward and practical solution will be implemented soon to ensure we retain those officers and those skills for a limited period until the experience in local policing is at an acceptable level.
As for the epidemic of shoplifting, this is possibly one of the single worst issues effecting trust and confidence in policing due to the brazen and volumous nature of the offending.
Katy Bourne, PCC for Sussex, and APCC portfolio lead for Retail Crime has been instrumental in highlighting this issue and a practical solution. She has pushed this to the top of the Home Office agenda, working with the policing Minister, retailers and police leaders to launch Project Pegasus - a dedicated national taskforce to combat organised retail crime.
Onto serious violence. The tragedy of knife crimes involving teenagers, both as victims and perpetrators is something barely heard of ten years ago. Now it casts a dark shadow of fear across our communities. We need to stop this. Earlier this year we saw PCCs embedded in the fight against serious violence solidified by the introduction of the new Serious Violence Duty.
In January PCC's will publish their Serious Violence Strategies demonstrating how partners including prisons, probation and police forces are prioritising this national policing priority area of crime.
The success of the Home Office Safer Streets Programme has seen £167m of funding, secured by PCCs to spend on community crime reduction projects.
Surrey PCC Lisa Townsend has lead a national review to protect policing resources; to ensure vulnerable people receive the right care from the right person. In July, the APCC joined national partners in England to sign a National Partnership Agreement to take forward the excellent work in Humberside to reduce non-crime demand on policing. We will hear more about this important work and its impact over the course of this summit.
PCCs are looking to the future to anticipate and build resilience in our commissioned services. Through our drugs portfolio Joy Allen and Dave Sidwick are highlighting imminent threats such as those posed by the reduction of poppy farming in Afghanistan and the inevitable surge in the synthetic opioid market. Fentanyl is 10 times more potent than heroin and nitazines range from 2 to 1000 X more potent. We know this is coming and we need to prepare and equip our forces to be in a position to break the networks that will be bringing these threats to our shores.
The work we do to help make our communities safer reaches beyond policing and into the criminal justice environment. With the prison capacity issues, we've seen recently, and the growing impact this will have on delays in sentencing, it is essential that we work with the Ministry of Justice to increase the options of managing offenders both within and outside prisons.
Technology including AI and facial recognition software are already delivering exciting results - and our role in supporting this involves, not just ensuring that these new technologies are being deployed in ways that are ethical, legal and proportionate, but that the public is aware and reassured both about the legitimacy, application and limitations of these technologies.
My colleague PCC Alun Michael, and the South Wales force have pioneered the use of live facial recognition, alongside the Met. It is the duty of the police to use every tool at their disposal to keep our communities safe, in a way that is legal, proportionate, and ethical, and it is mine and my colleagues' duty as PCCs to support and to scrutinise this use. I am pleased to see more and more forces taking up the use of this technology, with pilots in Essex and Northamptonshire. Used well, live facial recognition has the opportunity to revolutionise how the police catch criminals.
We are all committed to the same goal, improving policing and criminal justice in order to deliver safer communities. And as a PCC I am mindful of the victims who should be at the heart of our decision making.
Collectively we should be driving a system that delivers justice for victims, supports them to cope and recover, and provides resolution. I look towards the new Victims and Prisoners' Bill, going through parliament, to give us locally and nationally greater opportunity to come together to improve the system for victims.
Lastly, our commitment to rebuilding trust and confidence must extend beyond words. It requires tangible actions and concrete results. We must invest in the training and development of our officers to equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary to navigate complex social issues. We must champion diversity and inclusivity within our police forces, ensuring that they reflect the communities they serve. And we must work hand in hand with our partners in the criminal justice system, local government, and community organisations to address the underlying causes of crime and create long-term solutions.
The challenges are great and ever-changing, so much has already been achieved in terms of improvement through working together. I hope you enjoy the next 2 days and have the opportunity to explore ideas to take back to your respective areas to assist with making your communities safer.