Long-term funding deal needed to lift policing out of crisis, says PFEW

The Police Federation of England Wales (PFEW) says policing is in “desperate need of a long-term funding deal” from the Government if it is address some of the “stark findings” revealed in a report on burglary, robbery and theft published on Thursday (August 11).

Aug 12, 2022
By Paul Jacques
PFEW national chair Steve Hartshorn

It also dismissed suggestions made in the report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) that a lack of experienced officers meant these crimes were being investigated poorly and not adequately supervised, with victims “not getting the justice they deserve”.

The PFEW said it “rejects the suggestion that this lies at the fault of officers new in role”, adding: “The underlying causes, such as underfunding, lack of training and lack of officers in supervisory positions, are all contributing to the statistics within the report.”

HMICFRS found that the police response to serious acquisitive crime (SAC) is not consistently good enough – and victims face a postcode lottery when it comes to how thoroughly officers might investigate crimes (see https://www.policeprofessional.com/news/police-response-to-burglary-robbery-and-theft-not-consistently-good-enough-says-hmicfrs/)

Andy Cooke, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said failing to target SAC “damages public confidence in policing”.

He added: “The response to SAC from policing isn’t consistently good enough. Too many offenders remain at liberty and most victims aren’t getting the justice they deserve.

“Forces are missing opportunities to identify and catch offenders, from the moment a member of the public reports the crime to the point where a case is finalised.

“A lack of experienced officers means that too often, these crimes are being investigated poorly and are not adequately supervised – often because supervisors themselves are inexperienced and overstretched.”

The PFEW said the report simply highlights a “multitude of issues echoing serious concerns” that it has repeatedly raised for a number of years.

Charge rates for robbery, burglary and vehicle theft are low, and have dramatically decreased in recent years. Home Office data shows only seven per cent of all robbery offences and four per cent of thefts result in a charge.

PFEW national chair Steve Hartshorn said: “I appreciate these offences are not just volume crimes and have a real impact on the public and their ability to feel safe in their homes and communities, this is not under dispute in any way.

“Policing is in crisis due to a perfect storm of factors – many PFEW have been warning about repeatedly for a number of years, including, most significantly, that cuts would have dire consequences. We have sadly been found to be correct.

“It appears that despite the same messages from various reports and organisations over the years no action has been taken to prevent matters escalating and becoming worse.”

He said inspectorates have partly put this down to forces lacking investigative capacity and capability, often because of the national detective shortage and inexperience within the overall workforce.

Supervisors have repeatedly disclosed they are concerned over impossibly high workloads faced by detectives, which is having a detrimental impact on their mental health and wellbeing, said Mr Hartshorn.

The report also found that officers were overwhelmed with the volume and expectations of the work, leave the job, highlighting the increasing attrition rates we are seeing across forces.

Recent changes to Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) rules on disclosure have exacerbated this issue, as officers are left with impossible amounts paperwork to compile, resulting in the criminal justice process slowing down further, explained Mr Hartshorn.

The PFEW said it is campaigning for a change in the redaction process and changes to GDPR to help alleviate the challenges this guidance has caused for all parties.

A PFEW survey on the new guidelines found:

  • 93 per cent of respondents’ workloads had increased;
  • 87 per cent of respondents felt the guidance had increased how stressful they found the job;
  • 61 per cent noted the changes had increased their intentions to leave their role;
  • 45 per cent referenced the increase in the number of victims who have withdrawn from investigations due to delays caused by the guidance; and
  • Two thirds of respondents found the changes decreased the number of hours they spend actively investigating cases.

Mr Hartshorn said: “Every detective wants to do their best, but there simply are not enough hours in the day to keep up with the ever-increasing demands and the workload.

“Changes by the CPS to disclosure rules have worsened an already worrying situation. The changes to the redaction guidance put forward by PFEW could make a real impact on this problem if the campaign is successful.

“Demand is outstripping resources and they are working excessive hours and forgoing rest days to keep on top of these impossible workloads. This is severely impacting on their physical and mental wellbeing, and sadly influences their decision to resign.”

The PFEW says it is paramount more focus is placed on retention and not just recruitment which could be achieved through better pay and working conditions.

“We appreciate the Government is continuing with its uplift programme after a decade of police numbers being decimated, but there are still shortfalls in the number of detectives in forces across England and Wales,” said Mr Hartshorn. “There are also localised issues with recruitment that need to be addressed in relation to the uplift.

“There is also huge concern around experienced officers leaving the service in droves and knock-on effect this has to officers new in service. Leaders must ensure they do not just focus on getting people through the door.”

The HMICFRS report also highlighted victims were facing a “postcode lottery” when it comes to how thoroughly officers might investigate crimes, with Mr Cooke saying this was “unjustifiable.”

On the other hand, it found some police forces are “working hard” to tackle these crimes and uncovered some “excellent examples” of innovative and effective practice, said the PFEW.

It added: “The PFEW would ask why there is a postcode lottery and what specifically is causing these issues? Without this information, forces cannot identify sustainable, long-term solutions to ensure investigations are undertaken in the most professional manner.”

Mr Hartshorn said its members “deserve more investment, better benefits and an appropriate integrated learning environment that equips them for the realities of policing”.

He added: “I would urge the Government to commit to a long-term, sustainable funding settlement, and review its outdated funding formula which contributes to this postcode lottery service for victims which is unacceptable.

“A long-term plan would allow chief constables, police and crime commissioners and our partner agencies in policing to plan for the future and would also help efforts to put sustainable mentoring and training strategies in place so our officers can provide the very best service they themselves want to provide to the public.”

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