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How is your police force doing? Pave the way for the digital age; a 2016 update

Our People - Luke Cowles
11 November, 2016

Almost exactly a year ago today I wrote an article on how is your police force doing?, following Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s (HMIC’s), then latest PEEL (Police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimate) annual results. HMIC is the independent assessor for police forces in England and Wales, and this assessment looked at their efficiency.

So what for 2016?

Less than a week ago HMIC published their latest report, and so I’ve now had a bit of time to digest it. Powering through the report is one overarching theme; technology. Some forces are simply too archaic and this is causing real problems. Forces are being urged to engage with the modern world by harnessing current technology to their benefit.

Three key questions were asked this time around:

  1. How well do police forces understand their current and likely future demand?
  2. How well do police forces use their resources to manage current demand?
  3. How well are police forces planning for demand in the future?

Overall the picture is a little grim, but there is hope. Many forces have a plan for change, but only record if they achieve the objective they originally intended. Little or no provision is made for whether these changes go on to have unplanned secondary effects 

The report distinguishes between ‘reactive’ and ‘proactive’ demand.

‘Reactive’ demand is simply when the police are reacting to a crime report e.g. an incoming 999 call. Largely this is unproblematic and forces compile statistics to better understand trends in the communities they serve. 

‘Proactive’ demand is trickier. It relates to police uncovering crimes that tend to go unreported e.g. domestic violence or crimes in communities. An example of efforts being made is Norfolk Constabulary. They are working with charities that aid survivors of forced marriages and domestic abuse. Their hope is officers will better understand the scale of these crimes and how better to respond.

Changing direction, a HMIC report without a bit of number crunching is rare, so here goes.

Workforce changes which include officers, police staff and PCSOs:

  • In March 2010 the workforce total was 243,900 (143,700, 83,200 and 16,900 respectively).
  • In March 2016 the workforce total was 200,600 (124,100, 65,500 and 11,000 respectively).

The numbers tell their own story in the scale of reductions. Evermore so is the need for urgent movement for police forces to truly upgrade and enter this technological era. Not only can this help with efficiency, but the growth of so-called ‘cyber-crimes’ cannot be understated. Even at the time of writing, Tesco Bank are the latest institution in the spotlight for mass customer account theft.

A criticism given is that forces use ICT only to support their existing ways of working ‘rather than influencing the design of new ways of working’. Another issue is forces not updating or properly using their skills database to assist with proper allocation of officers. Instead, these databases tend commonly to be limited in identifying relevant language skills only.

Collaboration has improved in some areas so that forces can share resources. Often this is in the context between teaming up with neighbouring forces, the fire service and councils. The division is between forces that make efforts to realise benefits of strong partnerships, whilst others treat their existing partnerships as nothing more than a status quo.  

…and finally – who got what? Overall gradings

Only two forces achieved an outstanding grade (down from five last year); Durham and West Midlands as they did in 2015. 

Eight forces were graded as ‘requiring improvement’ (same number, some different forces); Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, City of London, Devon & Cornwall, Dyfed-Powys, Humberside, Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire.

The remaining forces all were graded as ‘good’, which signals no change for the Met.

As always – many of these results won’t represent an accurate reflection of your experience with your local force. Reiterating my 2015 article, the differing grades continue to show the service you receive remains a bit of a postcode lottery.

I’d be interested to hear from you and what your experiences of your local force are. Tweet me @PoliceActionsLC with your thoughts.

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