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“Only fundamental reform can reverse the crisis of confidence in policing” says Chair of the Strategic Review of Policing

Sir Michael Barber, the Chair of the Strategic Review of Policing, said today at an event hosted by the Centre for Policy Studies that only fundamental reform would reverse the crisis of confidence in policing.

He warned that without reform, the British tradition of policing by consent is at serious risk.

The event, also attended by the Minister for Crime, Policing and Probation the Rt Hon Kit Malthouse MP, comes two weeks before the Police Foundation publishes the Strategic Review’s final report, which will make 56 recommendations for the future of policing in England and Wales. They will be based upon three central themes: capacity, capability and organisation. The report will be the most comprehensive review of policing for a decade and has been over two years in the making.

Sir Michael Barber shared a panel with the Rt Hon Kit Malthouse MP and Lisa Townsend, Surrey PCC and spoke to an audience of representatives from national and local police forces, criminal justice bodies, agencies and the government.

Sir Michael made clear that the excellent police officers in this country are doing great work every day to keep the public safe despite, rather than because of, the system they are operating within. However, he  set out some stark statistics to illustrate why the crisis goes deep:

  • Over 40% of all crime now is online fraud, the vast majority of which goes undetected, never mind prosecuted.
  • Violent crime, often drug-related, has risen, with “homicide by sharp instruments” doubling between 2015 and 2021.
  • Crime detection has fallen dramatically and the percentage of crimes now being detected has fallen below 10%.
  • Detention of a person under the Mental Health Act increased by 33% between 2017 and 2020 and three million ‘investigation hours’ per year were devoted to missing persons.

He also noted however that there have been improvements in other serious crime rates, including knife-crime, neighbourhood crime such as burglary and firearms related offences which are all down since 2019.

Sir Michael Barber concluded by outlining how the police service must move forwards if it is to emerge from the current crisis:

“There’s a capacity challenge; there aren’t enough police, they haven’t got the best technology…There’s a capability challenge; police training and career development need to be addressed as part of changing the culture in a positive way. And finally, there’s an organisational challenge. While we want the 43 police forces to effectively tackle local crime, challenges like fraud, international crime and serious and organised crime need to be addressed strategically from the centre.”

“These are three big challenges facing policing right now. If we can get these things right over the next few years, we can address the crisis in public confidence”

The Rt Hon Kit Malthouse MP, Minister for Crime, Policing and Probation said that the Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales “came at an opportune moment to think about what the next stage of policing should look like.”

He said we should remember that overall, current levels of crime are still significantly below where they were in the late 1990s and early 2000s, even if new crimes like fraud and cybercrime are included. However there is a “moral imperative to drive further improvement.”

He said that the government’s Beating Crime Plan had established clear priorities for addressing neighbourhood crime and violence which have gone some way to giving the clear and prioritised mission the police deserve.

‘We need to think about mission, leadership and technology to drive us to the next stage” he concluded.