Five years on…key themes in policing

Blog post

Five years on…key themes in policing

It is nearly five years since I started my blog and sadly this one will be my last. I will be standing down as Director of the Police Foundation to spend time with my grand-children, but not before writing one last blog.

Looking back over the last five years, most of my blogs have addressed the big themes of the day: the impact of austerity; the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners; the Winsor reforms; the changing nature of crime; and police legitimacy. Some have focused down on specific problems such as stop and search, domestic abuse, rural crime or roads policing; others have commented on significant reports or events, such as the Stevens Commission or the launch of the National Crime Agency. Here are some of my favourite quotes:

“Cows blocking the road? Call the police. Man asleep in theatre? Call the police. Passenger smoking on an aeroplane? Yes, you’ve got it, call the police. They deal with so much more than crime – hopefully someone will tell the Home Secretary”.

“The private sector will expand as the public sector shrinks. We are entering new territory”.

“It is important, in the rush to make cuts, not to lose sight of the consequences they may have for ordinary human beings, not just for balancing the books”.

“PCCs must ensure that resources are allocated on the basis of need, not on the basis of winning votes”.

“With large numbers concerned about rapid change, increasing numbers of immigrants, greater complexity and too much choice in their daily lives and increasing social and economic inequality, the police may find they are still called upon to provide reassurance in this age of increasing anxiety and insecurity.”

“What’s needed is a completely new model of policing that goes well beyond the creation of face-saving specialist units and fully embeds cyber-policing into the role and function of every police officer.”

“If ever there was a time when central government should take responsibility for providing leadership and strategic direction it is now just when it’s decided to devolve everything to forces”.

I hope that some of the suggestions I have made for improving policing may also (at least one day) be taken up. And if I could choose just one it would be to challenge and overturn the zero tolerance approach to domestic abuse championed by the Home Secretary Theresa May and her Shadow, Yvette Cooper; both women should, frankly, know better. Addressing the causes of an offender’s violent and abusive behaviour helps to change their attitude towards their partners and deal with issues in their relationships. Arresting, prosecuting, convicting and imprisoning them does not. The former protects victims and deters future offending behaviour while respecting the wishes of victims, the latter (on the whole) does not. Diverting low level perpetrators of domestic abuse from prosecution is sound, evidence-based policing at its best.

Looking ahead, the outlook for policing looks bleak; more cuts, with fewer officers still trying to do more with less; looming threats, particularly from serious organised crime, internet-enabled crime and international terrorism; and probably further scandals too, just as the last Hillsborough inquiry finally draws to an end. The job of policing is never an easy one. But if there’s one lesson I have learnt over the last ten years it is that our police service contains, on the whole, many unsung heroes who deserve more praise than they get from a public that is often too busy to notice and from a government that is often too complacent to care.

I have thoroughly enjoyed leading this organisation and hope that my successor, Rick Muir, will enjoy it as much as I have. I wish him the very best of luck.