Direct Entry Scheme: Tell us more about what might affect us! Emma Williams / Jennifer Norman (CCCU) and Dr Fran Boag-Munroe (PFEW)

Direct Entry Scheme: Tell us more about what might affect us!

 

The messages portrayed in this blog do not reflect the views of the writers – so do not shoot the messengers! The narrative presented here offers insight into officers’ own views on a significant area of police reform – that of Direct Entry into the Police Service.

The Canterbury Centre for Police Research was fortunate enough to have been approached by the Police Federation England and Wales (PFEW) to be involved in some analysis in relation to officers’ perceptions of the College of Policing’s recent initiatives. We were grateful to the PFEW for inviting us to engage in this work as the ethos of our centre is to capture practitioner voice and, amongst other issuers, their experiences of police reform.

The data that this blog is based on was generated from the 3626 qualitative responses derived from the PFEW’s Annual Pay and Morale Survey 2017, the only national survey of officers, designed and run by Dr Fran Boag-Munroe.

Context

Direct entry is a contentious issue which has been widely debated on social media over the last few months. Much of this conversation has been anecdotal and focused on a disconnection between the frontline and the College of Policing. Primarily this has focused on the lack of information coming visibly from the College about the work they are doing and the impact it might have on the frontline themselves. Officers’ perceptions about the lack of engagement from the College have been recognised more recently, particularly following a blog from a serving officer, @nathanconstable, and the subsequent thorough response to the blog from Rachel Tuffin, at the College of Policing.

The analysis from this survey offered us a chance to provide some evidence around these perceptions, based on reliable research that perhaps validates some of these concerns voiced by officers.

What did we find?

Quantitative findings from the PFEW Pay and Morale Survey 2017

  • 75% of survey respondents felt that Direct Entry at Chief Officer rank would have a negative impact upon policing
  • 77% felt that Direct Entry at Superintending rank would have a negative impact upon policing
  • 82% felt that Direct Entry at Inspector rank would have a negative impact upon policing

The findings from the quantitative survey data indicated that the majority of respondents felt, regardless of the point of direct entry, that the scheme would have a negative impact on policing. However there is more concern over the direct entry inspector level and this largely related to operational nature of this rank.

Practical experience

Part of this criticism related to a genuine concern raised from officers about the credibility of direct entry candidates to make operational decisions due to their lack of ‘on the ground’ experience and, in the current climate of perceived professionalism, this is important. Academically there is a wealth of literature on what influences individual officers’ sense of credibility and much of it concludes that operational experience and the development of the police craft is a key factor and makes policing unique as a result.

“You cannot learn policing from a book. It is inherently dangerous to allocate persons to senior positions without them learning their craft first”

These perceptions, notions of uniqueness and acknowledged complexities of what the police deal with intersected with officers’ thoughts about DE entrants coming in from the private sector – particular at inspector level. There was a perception that the skills required to be effective in areas such as risk assessment, in the context of growing numbers of vulnerable people and perceived dangers, can only be built through experience.

“You cannot beat experience, managing police is not like managing Tescos”

As we were analysing the data we began to realise that some these perceptions of ‘not enough time doing to job’ linked quite clearly into an element of resentment that serving officers had about supporting DE entrants in their role. Firstly there was the issue of trust, and officers being confident in DE officers’ operational decisions without having the craft knowledge they rank as ‘high value’.

What resulted from this was officers offering assistance to and support these DE officers which they felt was not recognised by supervisory staff. It was clear from the data that a sense of not being valued was relatively strong and these feelings were compounded by their frustrations abut limited internal opportunities for serving staff and blocked career progression.

“It’s like people like me who’ll be bailing them out when they can’t make a decision due to lack of experience and knowledge”

Therefore officers talked about providing resilience, bailing people out and their subsequent frustrations about not being recognised either pay or management wise.

The impact on them personally

There was no doubt from the analysis that morale and (more practically relevant) de-incentivising had occurred for some as a result of the support they had offered others and the lack of information about what this meant for regular officers in terms of their access to progression. Direct entry was described as a ‘kick in the teeth’ and as the opposite of The College wanting to professionalise officers as they ‘parachute people in’.

What this ultimately led to was a sensed of unfairness amongst respondents and a feeling that whilst they were being told to gain more qualifications to build on, what should be accredited, experience, these DE officers were being welcomed with potentially neither aside from experience in another sector.

The extent of these feelings should not be underestimated and are important to hear. The inferences arising from this quote were not uncommon in the data:

“There are plenty of officers with wasted skills and who are ready for promotion in forces. They are blocked by the culture of negative attitudes and poor people development in the force. HR people do not develop people and the PDR process does not recognise those that are ripe for development.  Introducing external candidates at middle management level further blocks opportunities and closes doors for promotion in the force”.

Whilst there was some recognition that at high level (superintendent) external officers could bring different skills in terms of management and leadership styles, at warranted rank level DE was seen as a risk and incredibly frustrating for these respondents.

The fact that these perceptions linked to other officers, beyond them as individuals, clearly highlights the sense of unjustness of this decision across the whole. This was not a sense of unfairness for the individual but for the collective. Considering the literature on organisational justice this has huge implications for the wider sense of identity officers have with the organisation and their willingness to buy in to and support priorities and change.

Current processes for progression

What was interesting in the analysis was how the frustrations extended to the systems in place for them to achieve promotion inside the force.

“Why don’t we look at what we already have first rather than employ people who know nothing / have no experience of policing?”

“Why not change the promotion process to one which attracts and promotes good leaders who care for their staff and the public not getting onto the next rung of the ladder”

The PDR process was seen as defunct and also the sense of this and the current promotion process being partly responsible for a perceived need to employ from the outside as the right people hadn’t been given the chance inside. This should be considered as critical learning from this research.

What does this all mean?

We feel there is some key learning from this research which extends beyond the DE scheme. We will be publishing another blog with more demographic data, additions from a recent Twitter poll and also some other important findings from the survey relating to officers views having actually worked with officers and whether their initial perceptions had changed.

However from this initial blog it is clear that the lack of engagement and limited information available on DE had resulted in a void being filled with fast spreading information about what it means for regular officers.

In every area of change communication is the most important factor. In policing information travels fast in policing particularly now through social media networks that offer officers and others a space to voice questions, frustrations and thoughts about different police issues. The College of Policing has, in ways, recognised the need to engage more with the front line but perhaps there is a lesson here about who they engage with about different issues as opposed to just getting a load of information out there to everyone. Tailored messages are evidently in need here about the effects some change or initiatives might have on certain officers and how their fears might be allayed. On a number of levels this is important given the findings here about lack of incentive, lack of recognition and lowering morale. We know from all the excellent work being conducted on officer wellbeing that such factors may well impact negatively on productivity.

Finally and for us, one of the most important issues, is that individual professionalism is being impacted on here. It is undermined by officers’ perceptions of DE and conflicts with what the College are selling to officers about the importance of their experience and the fact it deserves formal accreditation through academic acknowledgment – hence professionalism. We think this is likely worsened by the lack of information forthcoming from the College about what this scheme means in the wider context.

The messages presented here from an analysis of officers voices are important for development of communication / engagement and the imparting of knowledge about new schemes.

These people are the workforce. They are what makes policing work at a very difficult time and treating them properly is vital for a number of practical and personal well-being reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Defining ‘Elderly’ in the Prison Context – Kelvin Robbins

Huge thanks to Kelvin for adapting this really interesting blog for the site from his excellent assignment submission for his MA programme!

This blog, adapted from a November 2017 postgraduate student admission, explores the definition of elderly within a prison context, the issues surrounding the incarceration of elderly people, why these issues are increasing, and the current efforts to address the issues.
There is little consensus to what constitutes an elderly prisoner. The definition of “elderly” in prison research literature ranges from 50 to 65. This lack of clarity in defining ‘elderly’ is an issue. Whilst age provides a simple measure of chronological progress since birth, it is a poor measure of life stage and ability. Therefore, allocating resources on the basis of chronological age could give unnecessary benefit to some and disadvantage others, and it makes meaningful comparison difficult for researchers as well as for policy makers. Matters are further complicated in that there is some evidence physiological deterioration is more advanced in an inmate compared to a person based out in the community, and this is put forward as an argument that incarceration accelerates the ageing process. However, this can’t apply to an elderly person committed to prison for the first time. Overall, there is no clear chronological point a person becomes “elderly” in the criminal justice system. Perhaps it is unsurprising defining the elderly in a prison context was identified as a top priority in developing national US policy in 2012.
Reviewing the literature relating to the imprisonment of the elderly reveals a number of clear themes. Firstly, society predominantly associates criminal behaviour with youth. It is described as a young man’s game, with prisons designed around fit young men, not for those with deteriorating health and physical ability. Prisons are institutionally geared towards smooth running and self-maintenance. This lack of consideration, or “institutional thoughtlessness” results in elderly prisoners being invisible in policy.

Expecting elderly prisoners to follow the same rules as younger prisoners could even be described as discrimination. For example, withdrawing access to media has been found to be more impactive on the elderly. Elderly female prisoners, as a minority within a minority, suffer more from this institutional thoughtlessness. Elderly female prisoners are described as forgotten, but some go further in describing a “pattern of malign neglect” in programmes and policies.
Another key theme is dementia. Prison systems are unprepared to handle this condition, as are earlier stages of the criminal justice system. Research indicates dementia can be devastating if undiagnosed in a correctional setting, but there is a lack of data about its prevalence in prison. Evidence shows younger adult prisoners are more likely to have chronic illnesses and psychiatric illness, so elderly prison populations may be more likely to suffer dementia. Certainly, healthcare planning for elderly prisoners cannot be extrapolated from estimates based on elderly based out in the community.
A third theme is the cost of elderly prisoners, disproportionately higher for elderly prisoners compared to their younger inmates. Financial issues seem to feature more in American literature, as responsibility to provide healthcare for inmates moves from the individual to the state for incarcerated persons in the USA, but there is also increased financial burden associated with elderly inmates in the UK.
Elderly prison populations are rising. Prison populations globally have grown, and within this there is a sustained surge of elderly prisoners, who are the fastest growing subgroup of prisoners. However, there is no clear consensus as to why. Some academics argue it is simply reflective of the increasing proportion of the elderly in wider populations, but this is dismissed by others. A potential reason may be the increasing length of sentences, yet as long ago as 1984 41% of prisoners were over 55 at their first committal to prison, and other schools of thought consider sentence length as a marginal contributor to increasing elderly prison populations.
UK courts have become increasingly preoccupied with retribution and risk, and there may be a societal shift to incapacitation models of crime control rather than rehabilitative approaches. There is also a greater readiness to prosecute historic offences, particularly sexual offences. This rise in elderly prisoners has led to established criminological theory of criminal involvement declining with age being questioned and re-examined.
In response to the rise in elderly prisoners, there are calls for sentencing reform. The established rationales for imprisonment are stretched to breaking point with the elderly. Sentencing guidelines underestimate the impact of imprisonment upon the elderly, and evidence suggests they are much less likely to reoffend. A key call is for Alzheimer’s screening or functionality tests for prisoners, but prison environment based functionality assessments must be developed as existing community based ones cannot easily translate into prison settings.
Whilst there has been good work by non-governmental organisations responding to elderly prisoners, action by responsible authorities lacks consistency with only pockets of good practice. Most positive approaches identified are due to individual improvisations by prison staff. The Prison Ombudsman has called for a national elderly prisoner strategy in 2017, repeating the little heard concern of the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons in 2008.

To conclude, elderly prisoners are a global, cross-discipline issue. Research and concern spans legal, nursing, geriatric, mental health, sociological, and criminal justice literature. National level responses are beginning to emerge, but a clear consistent theme across all the research disciplines is that research is too sparse, and whilst pockets of good practice exist, national policy is inadequate, if it exists at all.

 

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End of 2017 round up! Happy New Year

I just read the blog I wrote at the end of 2015 about police workload, resulting stress and the growing and unrealistic expectations placed on cops. As I start to write an end of 2017 blog I am depressingly aware that this year’s little round up will likely focus on extensions or worse news stories about exactly the same issues I wrote about then. Therefore, the concept of news or whatever is news, is kind of what this blog is about – news stories that have perhaps served to do two things. In many cases they seem present a very false picture to the public that the police are, in various ways, to blame for issues around the reduced service delivery to communities and secondly they often hide the realistic picture of crime and ‘other demand’ the police now deal with. Conveniently perhaps…………

Officers continue to face the same increasing workload issues and, related, wellbeing and stress factors. Budgets remain tighter than ever in our ongoing era of austerity and an announcement recently about police funding suggests that promised increases will be dependent on rises in local council taxes, which in some areas will place increasing pressure on already struggling communities as a result of stagnant wages, cuts to the welfare system and rising inflation. Whether this results in a postcode lottery in relation to who gets this ‘extra’ policing is yet to be seen but, if so, it is likely that those areas and communities that (perhaps) less need visible and proactive policing may have more accessible funds to cope with the rise in council tax rates coming.

Interestingly, 2017 saw a decision by the government to cut back questions in the Crime Survey England and Wales (CSEW). This vital survey has for many years provided a far more realistic picture of the crime and disorder some individuals and communities face daily. Indeed, the cynics amongst might ask why the reduction in questions has ‘really’ come at this time. This same year, the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, the head of the one single establishment that has decimated policing, announced that decreasing police numbers would not impact on rising crime rates. Following that, Nick Hurd at the College of Policing conference, told delegates that there was no more money, the police needed to be more innovative when dealing with the issues they face, utilise more technology and essentially, in so many words, do more with less through innovation and good ideas. That is absolutely another story!

This week we saw a leaked report from the NPCC suggesting that the reduced police capacity to be proactive is impacting on levels of anti-social disorder – something regularly revealed as blighting communities in the CSEW strangely enough. And critically can often be indicative of other more serious embedded issues that link to hate crime and the targeting of families and individuals. Moreover, there are a number of other examples that could be cited to highlight the impact that reduced resources have on the ability to investigate crimes (recent focus on mistakes made in rape investigations), manage offenders, engage with communities, be proactive and deal with certain ‘lower level’ crimes (the most recent concern being raised around shoplifting). Indeed, nowhere is this more evident than when we see the revolving door of priorities that police forces are told to deal with cyclically as per ‘insert subject’ report is published damning certain forces for not dealing with a, b or c effectively. This year alone has seen criticism about neighbourhood policing, rape investigation, being visible, mental health, domestic violence and child sexual exploitation……..
I am not one to deny the important role technology has in the world of criminal justice. Undoubtedly in many of these areas of police work mentioned above new technological innovations will assist the police in doing their job but what has run true so much, also over recent times, is the need for human police resources in communities. Humans that can explore what the needs are of those communities and areas, engage with them and keep them informed about what they are doing to try and deal with those issues. It isn’t even simply about being visible as mountains of research will tell us, this is about interactions, engagement and working with different communities with differing needs. Technology may assist in part but the public still want to see and engage with cops.

It was The Mirror that published some information from a leaked NPCC report warning that “the legitimacy of policing is at risk as the relationship with communities that underpins all activity is fading to a point where prevention, early intervention and core engagement that fosters feelings of safety are at risk of becoming ineffective. “Forces have “increasing difficulty in sustaining local policing” and “the degradation of this capability is accelerating.” The document predicts that this will lead to increases in crime, a reduction in offender management and the protection of vulnerable people. Arguably here when we read of vulnerable people we refer to both potential vulnerable victims and indeed those vulnerable and at risk of becoming offenders themselves.

Sun headlines such as the ‘dim blue light’ and ‘cops letting crooks get away with it 50% of the time’ are unhelpful to everyone but more critically they present an unrealistic and unfair picture that the police themselves somehow ‘chose’ do this. Such depictions have implications beyond the headlines as they imply incongruence between what the public want the police to do and what the police want to do for them. Conversely and for a long time the police have been attempting transparency about the risks thee extreme cuts have on the public and their ability to do their job. A job that is ever changing along with the expectations placed on them. Cuts have consequences campaigns and a number of @wecops debates are prime examples of where the congruence between want the police want to do – indeed issues that were core motivators of them joining the job – and what the public want them to do is clear. The concerns raised by the public are the same concerns as those raised by many officers daily about their ability to do ‘it all’ effectively and yet we continue to see blame placed at the door of the police when most of these new reports and subsequent critiques are published.
We constantly see denial from this government about a number of issues but Rudd’s statement was at best not thought through and at worst, completely incorrect. Police legitimacy is SO VITAL because of the link it has with compliance to the law and therefore crime levels. The recent report from Ipsos Mori highlighting the perceived lack of visibility and information provision from the police in some areas did not discuss the huge implications this has on public confidence in policing or legitimacy but if analysed in the context of all the research literature there are huge issues here both for relationships the public have with the police and their ability to understand local needs and problems – and subsequently, crime levels. How the government can continue to state that ongoing austerity will not impact on crime is incredulous.
Of course the growing social problems in the UK are contributing hugely to crime as are cuts to diversion schemes, increased poverty and cuts to the welfare state. What this government never did when they made these decisions to cut the public sector to the core was think about the, obvious to most, impact this would have on a police service also being cut to the bone – and the police people themselves. When May was Home Secretary she stated that the decisions to cut police budgets was viable – it clearly was not. It was not viable for the public, the police or anyone else and yet heads remain in the sand and there is no admission from anyone that the country is at breaking point and so is policing.
A few years on from May’s speech and the cracks are becoming huge pot holes- into which the public and the police are falling. Vicious headlines by unethical papers like The Mail and The Sun have other implications – on the police themselves. Police who spend their Christmas period and New Year looking after us, looking after and dealing with the most vulnerable victims and offenders, the lonely, the homeless, the mentally ill… need I go on.
I for one want to say a huge thankyou again for keeping me and my family safe in the most dreadful of times. Such incorrect headlines are damaging and deny the fact that many (most I speak to) officers only want to do more for the public. This is not an active decision to stop core policing tasks but it has becoming a measure to maintain functionality both practically and mentally for the officers struggling with the in-congruence and cognitive dissonance that they experience now when doing their job.
Someone please publish that in their papers.. well maybe next year!
Happy New year from us all at Canterbury and thanks for letting us into your fascinating world.

Emma

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Reflections on my journey so far with PoliceNow – Nick Falconer – Avon and Somerset Police

Huge thanks to Nick for writing this blog.. I hope we can get more as his experience advances…. I worked with Nick in the MPS and when he asked me to be a reference for him I was only too pleased! A great guy with a good future in policing ahead of him!

 

I have been asked to write a short blog by Emma Williams from Canterbury University, detailing my experiences so far as part of the 2017 Police Now cohort.

Before Police Now

I’ve had an interest in policing for as long as I can remember – I listened to the stories of a family friend who was a response officer in Torquay; thinking that one day I would do something similar. I went off to university with the intention of joining the police after university, but due to the stop in recruitment around 2010 this never happened. I was fortunate enough, however, to secure my placement year from Aston University with the Met Police in 2008. I worked alongside Emma and her team in the Strategy, Research and Analysis Unit based at ‘Met HQ’. I was able to see the professional work that goes on behind the scenes that contributes to everyday policing. What made my year even more unique is that our boss, Prof Betsy Stanko, allowed me to take a month off and train as a Special Con-stable too. This enabled me to see both sides of policing. I’ll always be grateful to Betsy for letting me do this!

After graduating, I was accepted onto the graduate scheme for a major international supermarket. I spent three years there, and was able to travel all over the world helping to grow their international online business. I then moved to another supermarket and accepted a position in their head office look-ing after a key part of their online business in the UK, before moving again in 2016 to become an area manager for a discount supermarket. During all of this, I kept my position as a Special Constable, work-ing alongside a response team and doing a few shifts with neighbourhood as all Specials do.

I remember enjoying my jobs in retail, but I got bored quite quickly and would soon be seeking my next challenge. Surely, I couldn’t keep switching between supermarkets for the next 35 years – there were-n’t enough brands!? I was coming home from my police duties feeling that I had made a difference to someone on most of my shifts. Literally, every day was different, but I was not brave enough to make the jump permanently.

The Police Now Application

After a particularly demanding few weeks at work last year, I came home and saw an advert for Police Now online. It offered a different entry route into policing; seeking graduates that could work on com-munity problems from day one. I decided to apply, and after a few application stages that were very similar to what I was used to first time around when I applied for graduate jobs, I was informed that I was successful and was being posted to Avon and Somerset Police. I accepted their offer, left retail and started in the 2017 cohort in July this year.

The Police Now Summer Academy and force induction

In July, I joined 230 other new recruits from forces across the UK. We stayed for the whole summer on a university campus in London and trained five days a week in Central London. The training was tough, we worked long hours and had a number of knowledge assessments and physical training sce-narios to complete. Our first knowledge check was on day one, testing our understanding of the pre-learn content from Blackstone’s and other online training packages. Training was different from my peers who entered through the traditional route. It was condensed, and was often conducted in a lec-ture room format compared to the classroom setup. We worked in syndicates of around ten officers, supervised by a sergeant. We had regular pastoral support from our syndicate leads too, who provided us with feedback as we progressed through the training.

Much of the training that we received had a neighbourhood focus. We had content on partnership working, and law was often based around offences that we may be encounter when we arrived on our beats. Some of the most engaging sessions were from ‘visiting staff’ who provided insight into their ex-periences and previous involvement with the police. One talk – from Paul Hannaford – remains with me to this day; so much so that he got a standing ovation from all of the officers in the room and I am look-ing to book him to give a talk at the secondary school on my beat next year. We also went out with re-sponse teams across London to consolidate our learning. At the end of the summer, all of the new re-cruits returned to their respective forces, and we then had our force induction.

Force induction for my colleagues and I in Avon and Somerset consisted of a week of getting to under-stand force IT systems back in the classrooms. We were issued our Airwave radios, body-cams, note-books and station passes and were sent out to work with our mentors in neighbourhood teams across the force.

Arriving at the station

When I arrived at the station, I was unsure as to what greeting I would receive. We had been told at training that some officers may not know what the scheme is about, and that we may experience some hostility in the early days. For me, this may have been even more apparent as I was the first PN officer posted to Weston-super-Mare.

I received a warm welcome from my colleagues. Despite working in our own office on the estate on which I patrol, we brief daily with the response team at the main station. I spent a couple of sets out with the response team, and was able to start building some good working relationships early on (there is no better place to explain what Police Now is all about than when you are sat in the response car waiting for the next ‘code 1’ call!). I can honestly say that the support that my mentor, PC Stephens and my supervisor PS Batchelor have given me has been fantastic. Despite a few teething problems, they have really embraced the Police Now process and enabled me to continue my learning on the job.

My training enabled me to start to be a great problem-solver. I hope to bring across skills I learnt in re-tail management too. As an officer in a non-metropolitan force however, I still need to do more ‘on the job’ learning to ensure that I am competent enough to deal with whatever the community calls us for. The division between neighbourhoods and response policing in my area is not clear-cut, and as a result I could be called to assist with any 999 call that we receive. Some of this learning comes through experience – I don’t think we missed out necessarily because of our training path, we just need the op-portunity to put our learning into practice on the front line.

My reflections three months on

I’ve been on my beat now for three months. I’m still enjoying policing and the opportunities to get in-volved in some intergenerational neighbourhood issues. When I look back at what I was doing six months ago, I can’t believe how much my career path has changed. I was looking for a job that will keep me interested for the rest of my career, and I hope that policing will be able to give me that. As I was looking for, every day is certainly different (the other day I identified a corpse in some woodland, and twelve hours later I was in the primary school on my beat eating Christmas dinner!)

I definitely made the right choice – this scheme is delivering what it said it would – and I’m looking forward to our next 100-day impact event early next year.

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The Denial of Voice and the Removal of Responsibility: Some reflections on the reductions to the Crime Survey England and Wales

THE DENIAL OF VOICE AND THE REMOVAL OF RESPONSIBILITY: REDUCTIONS TO THE CRIME SURVEY ENGLAND AND WALES

New cost-saving measures applied to the Crime Survey for England and Wales from 2017/18 will reduce the number of people interviewed each year and so challenge the ability of academics, police forces and policy makers to draw on a robust local evidence-base that is much needed to inform and steer decision-making and service delivery tailored to local needs. That the Crime Survey is being squeezed again at a time when the in-house analytic capability of police forces is at an all-time low, when forces are no longer mandated to routinely survey victims of crime and many have stopped local public surveys to save money, is of major concern when all the signs point to rising crime and vulnerability in society.

Emma Williams – a little history

Last night (November 15th) I attended Professor Ben Bradford’s inaugural lecture at City Hall in London. The paper was focused on policing diversity, immigration and the impact of this on police legitimacy. It was a brilliant paper which yet again highlighted to me the clear ignorance around the governments’ decision to reduce the questions in the Crime Survey England and Wales.

I will avoid making this blog a history of certain criminological theories and the influence they had on the development of victimisation surveys in the UK. But I cannot write this without making reference to Jock Young and the Left Realist school. These writings exploring and questioning ‘the truth’ of official crime statistics and the lack of discussion about the dark figure of crime led to the development of victimisation surveys and the British Crime Survey, which later became the Crime Survey England and Wales (managed by ONS). Such data finally shed light on the reality of victimisation for many communities and groups in the UK. Without such insight we would not effectively understand multiple and repeat victimisation, incidences of hate crime, the reality of domestic abuse or the reality of how certain areas and groups experience crime and violence differently and disproportionately. Plus, critically, just how much of this goes unreported to the police.

The crime survey plays a vital role in helping us understand how the public view the police which is essential to understanding the level of legitimacy the public feel the police have in the UK. The surveys reveal issues around differing definitions of what constitutes a crime, personal narrative about harm or an act of violence. Such insight helped to confirm feminist criminologists’ exposure of the level of threat women feel as a result of their gender. This allowed for some real challenge to the notions of women’s fear of crime being irrational as it revealed the type of everyday perceived violence that women can experience. The dark figure of crime and victimisation is vital to understand – it facilitates (or should) more focused resource deployment, policy and strategic initiatives aimed at informing the community and dealing with their concerns, local policing plans and targeted work where certain groups are overly represented or have lower levels of confidence in the police. Force data and local surveys have largely gone due to severe cuts but now it seems it is deemed as ‘not a priority’ by our government also.

Helen will talk more about some of the practical implications of these cuts later in the paper but I want to briefly discuss them in relation to something Ben raised last night. I cannot do his words justice in this short piece but what his analysis showed us is how much we need to understand the experiences of immigrants as just one vulnerable group, and how much a sense of identity and belonging in a new country / community is linked to their perceptions of legitimacy and trust in the police. The cutting back of questions to the crime survey inhibits and limits the exploration of this groups’ experiences of crime and policing – particularly given how much crime experienced by these groups goes unreported. The crime survey can help us track issues over time – indeed by exploring perceptions of the police we might even be able to further understand our social order and our ability to integrate and include immigrants within the UK. This understanding gives us a broader sense of understanding our social order – a gauge on which to consider our wider social order not just simply victimisation.

Therefore, when I read articles about how the police are no longer dealing with low level disorder and minor crime – predominantly I would argue because they have had to make decisions based on such severe budget cuts – it makes me think that there may be more reasons for the cuts to the CSEW than simply money. If we don’t ask about some of our most vulnerable citizens experiences of crime, harm and victimisation, if we don’t fully understand the disparity in crime and victimisation then we a: can justify and excuse ourselves for not dealing with it and b: leave some very serious questions about our country’s social order and willingness to deal with the type of exclusions that more and more of our communities face, unexplained. If the evidence is not there then we don’t need to deal with it………..

Dr Helen Innes – some practicalities

So having looked at why the CSEW matters, I would like to turn to explore how reducing the overall sample size by 600 households (from 35,000 down to 34,400 annually) and the survey response rate to 71 percent will have a detrimental impact upon the conduct of evidence-based policing and other forms of research. The kinds of research that the Crime and Security Research Institute at Cardiff University, and other similar units, have been able to conduct at the request of some police forces and Police and Crime Commissioners has used local data in the Crime Survey to directly inform difficult decisions about service re-configuration and delivery in today’s austere climate.

The loss of 600 households from a continuous national survey of around 35,000 doesn’t sound a lot, but it is important to put this in a longer-term perspective. For it represents a further ‘chipping away’ at a sample that at its peak included 46,000 interviews across England and Wales. Whilst the total number remains large, the effect of these cumulative reductions is felt disproportionately when it comes to sub-national or local analyses, such as those using the geographical unit of police force area (PFA) to align with the agendas of locally elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs).

As part of a broader move to empower local communities, PCCs were introduced in 2012 to play a key role in driving innovation and reform in local policing priorities to accord with local need and to evidence these in their annual crime plan. On average, however, the number of interviews per PFA has fallen markedly since the Crime Survey became continuous in 2001; from 1,000 in each police force area down to 650 in 2012-13 and cut again today by an average of 13 interviews per area, or a total of 637. The numeric effect of this reduction will not be uniform across England and Wales because some force areas (e.g. the Metropolitan Police) are larger than others, but it does mean that the opportunity to leverage local insights from the survey will be further compromised across the country.

The impact on evidence-based research is twofold. First, it follows that a smaller sample for each police force area places more stringent access conditions on the data for researchers given that there is an increased risk of disclosure of respondents’ personal details. The danger is that this limits the reach and potential of local data (which may well be the only consistent and representative survey sample of victims and non-victims of crime available) to a select few in academia. Second, of course, is that a smaller sample reduces the precision of estimates from the data, meaning that confidence in the reporting of findings from any single year becomes limited at a local level, particularly when looking at important but small sub-groups within a sub-national population such as victims of crime.

This matters because the Crime Survey is so much more than a counterpoint to police-recorded crime statistics that report each quarter if, and what, crime is going up or down. Being able to see the volume, trend and clustering of crime is important nationally and regionally as the nature of crime itself changes and evolves, but so too are peoples’ reported experiences of crime and policing. How these intersect with where and how people live and the drivers of vulnerability to social harm is something that will vary between and within police forces. It is to be hoped that, in reducing the response rate to this survey, there is no disproportionate impact on capturing the voices of those most vulnerable to victimisation and repeat victimisation.

Although we remain fortunate in this country to have a number of high-quality surveys capturing data on public attitudes, family, education, health and well-being, rarely do they permit these areas to be connected with public opinions on crime and policing. This is particularly the case in Wales, for example, where policing is not a devolved responsibility.

The Crime Survey really is the best large-scale tool we have for understanding and anticipating demand on police and victim services in England and Wales, what crime means to people, how it harms them and where we should look to prioritise action and intervention given limited resources across the whole public sector. An example of this from our own work is a local Crime Survey analysis we did on behalf of a Police and Crime Commissioner focusing on public perceptions of victim support services within their force area. By highlighting areas of unmet need based on the qualitative harm associated with reported victimisation rather than the category of crime itself, this evidence informed commissioning decisions about the future direction of quality and delivery of these services.

It is now up to individual police forces and commissioners to decide their ongoing commitment to surveying victims of crime and utilising survey-based evidence to best tailor the services they can provide to their public. Facing this choice, a pertinent question might be whether it is enough to rely on robust ‘national’ indicators (e.g. of victim satisfaction) that the Crime Survey of England and Wales provides rather than drift towards a more fragmented, piecemeal picture of regional variability from locally commissioned, small scale surveys utilising diverse sampling techniques and questions. It would be foolish to deny that cost-efficiencies have to be made, but perhaps an alternative in this case would be for PCCs to come together collectively to financially support the Crime Survey in achieving a sample that makes it robust, useful and comparable for locally oriented analyses in England and Wales.

 

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