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.