Last updated on September 19th, 2023 at 04:45 pmReading Time: 14 minutes
Apologies folks, it’s going to be a long, but in my opinion, important one today.
I was originally going to entitle this post TJ is VERY F but that seemed just a bit too frivolous for such a serious subject. I have often seen the hashtag #PoliceInCrisis or #PoliceServiceInCrisis, and even used it myself, but is it true? Is Crisis an accurate description of the Police Service of England and Wales in 2019?
Let’s take a look at the evidence. Firstly there’s the Manpower (am I allowed to say Manpower?)
No disputing that Manpower is well and truly on its way back down again, having peaked, overall, in 2009, and the combined strength of Police Officers and PCSOs is now only the same as Police Officers on their own was in 2002. What has happened to the population in the last few years? It has grown. The government took no notice of that whatsoever when they slashed Police numbers and resources, so how has that affected things? Experience. What has happened to experience in Policing? The Service has haemorrhaged experienced officers. In just the last few years the problem looks like this (Fig 2), in the main, experienced officers being shed and replaced with new recruits, cheaper to employ but join with no experience.
Not that it really makes that much difference, but most of the public interact mainly with officers at Constable rank, Fig 5
Totally unsurprising, the government has been directly responsible for the loss of 21,000 Police Officers, meanwhile the population has risen and the ratio of Police to Public has demonstrably worsened. Due to the relatively small number of more senior officers there is not really a noticeable difference between Officers and Constables, which is reassuring. What is NOT reassuring is that the ratio has declined from approx 202 to approx 162, or approximately 20%
How do we fare in comparison to other countries?
Quite rightly, and unsurprisingly, Crime is perceived as a major constituent of the Police Service’s core business, but what has happened to Crime Stats over the past few years?
According to Police Recorded Crime crime levels have risen. The government favour the Crime Survey of England and Wales figures and (up until recently) were telling us that crime had fallen. Whilst CSEW stats may have shown a decrease in overall crime levels that is only part of the story. They are considerably (and constantly) higher than Police Recorded Crimes. Overall crime per 100,000 head of population has reduced slightly since 2017, but total crime is on the rise again, and Knife Crime is significantly higher than previously. As can be seen from Fig 10, the Rate of Crime was more or less reducing year upon year until 2014/15 and has been steadily rising ever since, despite the repeated government mantra that “Crime is Down, Police Reform is Working.”
If this wasn’t bad enough the ‘Clear Up Rate’ has plummeted to less than 8%, Fig 7. No surprises there, Response Officers are carrying a ridiculous number of investigations themselves whilst, at the same time there appears to be a national shortage of qualified Detectives. This has led the Met together with Police Now to launch a Direct Entry Detective initiative. Good luck with that. Additionally the Home Office or Office For National Statistics keep moving the goalposts. Currently the figures include only offences for which someone has been Charged or Summonsed, whereas previously they included all offences that had been ‘solved’ and a sanction of some kind imposed, i.e. the headline figure no longer includes Cautions, so it makes it look as though the Police are doing even worse. It wouldn’t make a huge difference but it would increase the Clear Up rate by maybe one or two percentage points.
Call Handling data is quite informative in my view. Whilst all Forces have immensely different volumes of calls coming into their Control Centres, London has many more than Suffolk obviously, the pattern of calls is similar for all of them. The volume of 101 calls has remained reasonably constant since 2009/10 but the number of 999 calls dipped between 2014 and 2016 but has now not only risen back up ,but exceeded earlier levels. The chart below shows the combined data for all the Forces that responded (approx 3 quarters at time of writing) . The one FACT that stands out a mile is that whilst overall volume of 101 and 999 calls has not increased immensely, and in fact was very slightly lower in 2018/19, the total number of Police officers in England and Wales has reduced significantly. The total number of officers potentially available and the number of Front Line Officers have both reduced significantly but demand via 999/101 has remained more or less constant, occasionally even greater. Fig 10 below is not a complete picture, several Forces have not yet responded to my FOI request, but if and when they do it will only make the total number of calls for Police larger, without affecting the manpower stats overlaid. Demand peaked in 2017/18 with nearly 27 Million calls for Police in the year, but is still only a tiny bit short of 25 Million whilst the number of officers available to deal with those calls has decreased. You COULD argue that the number of 101 calls received doesn’t necessarily impact upon the Police Officers directly, but it does impact upon the Police Service as a whole with the Civil Staff who may be dealing with many of the 101 calls have also been reduced from almost 81,000 in March 2010 to just under 70,000 in September 2018, having recovered slightly from a low point of 62,500 in March 2017.
More than 10,500 police officers across the UK took time off work for stress, depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder in the past year. The figure – 10,684 – is a staggering increase of 69.76 per cent since 2012/13. And works out at around one in 13 officers. A total of 6,294 officers were signed off on sick leave for psychological illnesses in 2012, when the figures were first collated by Police Oracle, but that figure stands at 10,684 for the financial year 2018/19. Meanwhile 915 more officers were signed off sick this year compared with last year – a 9.37 per cent increase – according to a Freedom of Information Act request of all forces . 479 West Yorkshire Police officers took time off work for stress, depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder in the past year – an annual increase of 34% Brian Booth, Chairman of West Yorkshire Police Federation, said: “Front line Policing is Austerity Fatigued so a 34% increase comes as no shock. “Without adequate welfare provision supporting our front line colleagues, they are highly susceptible to psychological illness. “West Yorkshire Police Federation have been working closely with our Force offering support through counselling sessions and pressing for Trauma Risk Management training (TRiM) to be extended. “But it can only be described as wading through quick sand. It’s not only heavy workloads, reduced officer numbers, assaults and trauma incidents that take their toll. It can be working in isolation with no colleague to talk to, especially after a traumatic incident. “This is just another symptom of an underfunded service that it struggling day by day. The Government need to recognise and act upon these figures before it is too late.”
Mutual Aid, for those that don’t know, is where one or more Police Forces send a number of officers (upon request) into another Police Force’s area to be deployed in assisting the home Force with an identified Policing problem, such as in the 80s with the Miners’ Strike and Greenham Common etc. The problem with it basically is that it denudes an already over-stretched ‘donor’ Force and is often accomplished by way of cancelling Leaves or using Overtime. Both of these have knock-on effects with the numbers of Rest Days and Time Off In Lieu building up which will have to be taken in the future, further reducing the resources of the donor Force. I read recently that Force A was supplying Mutual Aid to Force B but then had to call upon Mutual Aid from Force C to backfill the gaps caused by the original Mutual Aid deployments.
On the subject of Minimum Strength I sent all the Forces an FOIA Request simply asking
For the current Financial year to date
On how many separate occasions have OCUs/Boroughs/Divisions operated at below Minimum Strength?
I didn’t expect to get many replies. However, to date, 5 Forces have actually given me a number. I won’t be namimg names here for obvious reasons but the numbers ranged between 0 and 71. The majority of Forces simply Refused, which is what I expected and three Forces answered “We don’t have that information recorded”, and one Force actually claims not to have a Minimum Level set. Two things disturb me about this, the fact that Minimum Levels ARE being breached, and that at least one Force doesn’t have a Minimum Level set. The majority of the other Forces do have a Minimum Level set, by implication it has been breached at least once, and many claim that it is ‘too expensive’ to extract that data in order to respond. If I was a Chief Constable I would want to be regularly briefed on that statistic, if only to be one step ahead if the whatsit hit the fan.
Outstanding Rest Days
I sent all 43 Forces an FOIA request, quite simply asking
Can you please tell, under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, for the current Financial Year to date:-
a) The total number of cancelled Rest Days that are owed to your officers not already taken
b) The total number of hours overtime incurred by your officers and not already taken in lieu?
Just over half have answered, the request is now about 3 weeks overdue, so I had to give in eventually. The results from the 25 Forces that have actually answered so far are (in my view) quite shocking. A Grand Total of 122,633 Rest Days have been cancelled and still waiting to be taken off. Unsurprisingly the Met was the worst offender with 71,915 Rest Days cancelled in the first 2 months of the Financial Year and 20,366 of those still waiting to be taken off. The number of hours overtime as TOIL was also shocking with almost a quarter of a million hours waiting to be taken off. However, that is not the the end of it. Many Forces who did respond could not tell me how many hours were waiting to be taken as their systems did not allow for easy retrieval. Additionally, in the Met (again) 1,387,712 (Yes, nearly 1.4 MILLION) hours of overtime had been worked up to the 16th June but they were unable to tell me the current outstanding figure. Huge amounts of overtime are a sure sign of a Police Service struggling to stay afloat.
Resilience? Well there isn’t any really. Whichever Force you look at Staffing levels have been cut by an average of 20%. That’s just for starters. Then we have the officers who have been lucky enough to take off one or more of the cancelled Rest Days that they are owed, or a few of the hours owed in Time Off In Lieu, although neither of these is guaranteed. Followed by Aid, a temporary relocation of the workplace to elsewhere in the Officers’ home Force, or Mutual Aid to another Force. Both of these activities leave the Officers’ home Station denuded or adds one more to the list of Rest Days that are waiting to be re-rostered. The vast majority of Operational Command Units no longer have the ability and the luxury of mounting proactive operations against criminals. Local Drug and Burglary Squads are mainly a thing of the past, not because they are not wanted or successful but because there are no longer sufficient officers to staff them, Response and other core duties taking priority. Then there is increased levels of sickness, most notably a marked increase in officers reporting sick with Stress -related problems or PTSD. All in all the average day sees many, many fewer officers parading for duty at all Police Stations. Above all, it is important to remember, that every time you read about ‘extra officers this’ and ‘extra officers that’ there are NO EXTRA OFFICERS. They are the same officers working Overtime, a cancelled Leave Day and leaving a disgruntled partner and family at home The politicians, media and even NPCC love to refer to ‘extra Police Officers’. There are none. Just the ones working extra hours are burning out. Police Officers, Specials, PCSOs and Police Staff, the ‘family’ has shrunk by approx 50,000 since 2010 (Fig 11).
College of Policing
I truly believe that the College of Policing deserves a paragraph all of its own. Not only are they responsible for Direct Entry Inspectors and Superintendents (see below) but they are also the driving force and instigators behind Graduate Entry. To repeat what has been published elsewhere, as of 2020 there will be ONLY 3 routes into the Police Service of England and Wales.
- Apprenticeship. Join as a constable, and follow an apprenticeship in professional policing practice – you earn while you learn. This route normally takes three years with both on and off-the-job learning. On successfully finishing the programme, you complete your probation and achieve a degree.
- Degree-holder entry. If you have a degree in any subject, you can join and follow a work-based programme, supported by off-the-job learning. This route normally takes two years, and the learning you have undergone is recognised in a graduate diploma in professional policing practice when you complete your probation.
- Pre-join degree. If you want to study first, you can do a three year degree in professional policing at your own expense, and then apply to a force and follow a shorter on-the-job training programme. Being a special constable can be included in this route.
This obviously means that in the fullness of time the Police Service will become a ‘Graduate Only’ Profession (except perhaps for Police Chiefs, most of whom probably have a degree anyway but there are currently no plans to make it compulsory). Why? This does not reflect Society as a whole and “The Police are the Public and the Public are the Police” will no longer be true. Robert Peel and Richard Mayne will be turning uneasily in their graves.
The finest point of all is that the College of Policing are actively encouraging officers to leave after a few years and become ‘Ambassadors for Policing’. (Fig 12) What profession who values their staff encourages them to leave with the vague suggestion that might return in a few years time at another rank presumably, but nothing is guaranteed.
Police Now have this to say on the subject
We anticipate that many Police Now officers will have a long and successful policing career. It is important to realise however that the graduate market is changing, and new graduates want
variety in their career profiles and do not always envisage staying in one job long term. Therefore, some will choose to move into different areas within the public or private sector. It’s vital that we have continued contact with these alumni. After all, the aim of the programme is to not only create
exceptional police officers but to create exceptional leaders in our communities, who can act as ambassadors
Coming late to the party is Apprenticeships for PCSOs. I’ve no idea how I missed this one but aspiring PCSOs will now need to choose the Apprenticeship or the Non-Apprenticeship route in (wait for it).
Level 4 PCSO Apprenticeship entry programme (England) (the End-Point Assessmentis only applicable to England).Forces can work with different awarding bodies for you to gain this Level 4 qualification. The professional curriculum covered and the level of professional education and competence you will achieved is identical.
Level 4 PCSO Apprenticeship entry programme (Wales) (details of the Apprenticeship Framework (identity number: FR04078) are via the link)
Level 4 (non-apprenticeship) PCSO entry programme
An Ofqual-regulated Awarding Organisation (in which case the qualification is titled a Level 4 Diploma in Community Policing Practice)
A Higher Education Provider (in which case the qualification is titled a Level 4 HE Certificate in Community Policing Practice)
Deary me, talk about Social Engineering, when did our PCSOs require a Level 4 Qualification? Call it an Apprenticeship and Forces/College can tap into the government Apprenticeship Levy. A cynical person might be tempted to think that it’s just a way to get someone else to pay for their training. As for the Level 4 Non-Apprenticeship route, No Idea. Information on that is sparse to say the least.
The Apprenticeship Route consists of
- ten weeks’ training at a Training Centre, designed to give you a solid understanding in the essentials of a PCSO’s role and powers
- ten weeks’ tutoring on your Local Police Area (LPA)
- on and off the job learning and coaching over the course of one year to enable you to achieve the Level 4 Certificate in Community Policing Practice
But I still haven’t got a clue how the Level 4 Non-Apprenticeship route works, maybe they don’t want anyone to go that way.
Direct Entry & Part Time Working
I’ve left Direct Entry and Part Time Working until last because a) it has been done to death previously, and b) is probably less detrimental to day-to-day Policing that the topics above. This does not mean, however, that they can be ignored. I read recently of a Direct Entry Superintendent promoted to Assistant Chief Constable with 3 years Police Service and completely bypassing Chief Superintendent rank. I don’t know the person personally, they may be an absolutely stunning Police Officer, but I doubt it somehow. This precedent will have the knock-on effect of a total lack of experience at the very highest levels, meaning that when very sensitive operational details or RIPA requests come across their desks they may not necessarily comprehend the full importance of the operation or request. There is a potential (and I put it no stronger than that) for bad decisions to be made due to lack of operational experience. They may possess the most fantastic skills at running large HR Departments for example, but does that give them the ability to cut through the crap in a fast-moving terrorist operation? Hmm, possibly not.
There has always been the potential (mainly for mothers in my day) to work Part Time, but the current proposals go way beyond being family-friendly. Recruits are given the opportunity to stipulate 16 or 24 hour weeks from the outset with the option of Part Time Training also. How exactly will that work? It just smacks of an organisation desperate to put pegs in holes and that’s all they’re worried about. In my opinion it does nothing to increase or improve the efficiency or effectiveness of the Police Service.
It makes any Force look like it has more officers than it truly has. Those that choose to work just 16 or 24 hours per week cannot truly be counted when it comes to putting boots on the street to counter an identified policing problem. They are not ‘as available’ as an officer working Full Time. No criticism of the officers for choosing that way to balance their Work/Life but a cynical move by the Home Office, College of Policing and individual Forces for countenancing it.
There will be many out there in Twitterland who wholeheartedly disagree with me, but I sincerely believe that, taken together, the problems highlighted above (and possibly some others I have unwittingly overlooked) bears evidence to the fact that the Police Service of England and Wales has been systematically destroyed by politicians. I hold David Camoron and Theresa May personally responsible but others have their part to play; Tom (now Sir Tom) Winsor, and successive Home Secretaries following Mrs May have done NOTHING to put this right. NOTHING. Those learned academics will be telling me that I failed to show a causal link between political interference in Policing and the decline in performance levels of the Service, but I say, individually possibly (although I don’t believe that) but taken as a whole it can hardly display anything else. However they are entitled to disagree with my thinking, and I with theirs. What do YOU think?
In recent weeks the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has pledged to put 20,000 officers back into Policing. My personal view is that was merely a vote winning soundbite, and if he really means it he will have a much bigger problem than he thinks. 21, 000 officers, OK he’s addressed that, approx 8,000 fewer PCSOs, he hasn’t addressed that, 15,000 fewer Police Staff, he hasn’t addressed that, nearly 5,000 fewer Specials, he hasn’t addressed that and approx 650 fewer Police Stations PLUS other ancilliary buildings (INCLUDING Training Establishments) and operational vehicles, he certainly hasn’t addressesd that. The time taken to recruit, train and get these magical replacements up to speed will quite possibly take 10 years or even longer.
On top of his fabulous pledges he might like to consider these figures, which are certainly not going to help him.
Approx 30% of Police Officers leaving the Service are Voluntary Resignations. That is not sustainable. That is not a ‘Healthy Churn’. Instead of promoting fancy-pants Police Education Qualification Framework (PEQF) policies, maybe the College could better spend their time addressing the 30% Voluntary Regulations.
Well that’s my view on this disaster. What do you think? Is the Police Service ‘merely’ in crisis or is it in terminal decline?