Police left in 'perpetual state of crisis' by government's lack of long-term plan, senior officer warns
'What are we ultimately working towards? What is the vision for policing in 21st century England and Wales?' head of Police Superintendents’ Association asks
Policing will be in a “perpetual state of crisis” if the government does not lay out a long-term vision for the stretched service, a senior officer has warned.
Chief Superintendent Gavin Thomas, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association, was to tell of his “genuine fears for the future of the police service and the hard-working people who make it up” at the opening of the group’s annual conference.
He warned that the loss of more than 20,000 officers since 2010 has left fewer people working longer and harder, on extended shifts and cancelled leave days.
“Last year I said policing was in the middle of a perfect storm,” Ch Supt Thomas was to tell delegates in Leicester.
“I would now suggest that this great service is on the verge of crisis in many areas.
“The vision for policing has to be something more strategic than a hope for more collaborations, otherwise we will be in a perpetual state of crisis.”
A survey of members of the Police Superintendents’ Association, which represents officers of that rank across England and Wales, found many felt their role had a negative impact on their health and wellbeing.
Some reported spending four hours in a car some days covering force areas of more than 100 miles, while wasting time on “inefficient” collaborations.
Ch Supt Thomas was to condemn a “void in the long-term strategic vision for the police service” left by the government, telling the home secretary to take “difficult and bold” decisions.
“We need to know what the overall goal is for reform. What are we ultimately working towards? What is the vision for policing in 21st century England and Wales?” the officer was to say.
“We have been debating our structures for delivering service to the public on and off for years, and yet have been trying to make the same systems and structures work."
The warning came after the head of the Police Federation told The Independent forces were “failing the public” because of government cuts, which are causing them to stop responding to some crimes.
Research by the association found that a record number of police officers were taking second jobs to boost their “insulting” wages, while dealing with unprecedented demand, rising violent crime and terrorism.
In the year to March, the number of homicides recorded by police rose by 12 per cent, knife crime offences were up by 16 per cent and robbery rocketed by 30 per cent.
The number of police officers has hit a record low in the same period, while almost half of all criminal investigations were closed with no suspect identified, and the proportion ending with a prosecution fell to just 9 per cent.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary has made it clear that he is committed to a good working relationship with the police and to ensuring that frontline officers get the support and professional development they deserve.
“The ongoing Frontline Review will help officers and staff to drive change in policing and ensure that the barriers they face on a day-to-day basis are identified and addressed.”
The Home Office launched the review in July, saying it would give officers the “opportunity to share their ideas for improvement” – although it will not address pay, resourcing or demand.
Policing minister Nick Hurd is to update officers on its progress at the conference, where other speakers will include Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick, MPs and the head of the College of Policing.
The conference kicked off after Britain’s first “999 Day”, which celebrated the contribution of staff across the emergency services and raised money for a national memorial to honour those who have died in the line of duty.
“The men and women of our emergency services are there for us when we need them most,” Theresa May said.
"As a nation, we are indebted to them for their courage and their sacrifice and it is absolutely right that we should honour their incredible service in this very special way."