The Home Secretary’s announcement that police budgets will be hit in the current slashing of the public sector follows in the wake of the 2009 White Paper which called for deep cuts in police budgets, and many forces have been streamlining in the pursuit of efficiencies and savings. The declaration that the Policing Pledge will be ripped up should delight those elements of the media which condemn the police for their target driven culture. Although the service was heavily targeted under the Labour government, the Policing Pledge represented a new direction: one clear target of public confidence, and a set of ‘promises’ to the public.
A study by The Work Foundation, in partnership with the NPIA in 2009, to develop a 10 year workforce plan for the police service highlighted a wealth of progressive and innovative thinking in forces; yet they are often paralysed by the political context and the media frenzy that surrounds them.
The study highlighted a critical gap for the police service: a clear vision for policing. The Policing Pledge, with its emphasis on public confidence, provided some sense of vision. Many forces apply a simple equation with regard to public confidence; research in one clearly indicated that police visibility, neighbour hood policing and proactive crime prevention activity correlates positively with public confidence. Proactive crime prevention also correlates negatively with the opportunities to commit crime, thus increasing public confidence. What stands out is the relationship between negative media and public confidence – the more critical the media, the less confident the public.
Given the need for serious savings, what can be done without harming from line services? Our study found that many recognise the productivity and efficiency gains to be made from working together, sharing front line services, and ‘buying’ talent in from other forces. The current employment framework is expensive – will forces change to a model where at least a basic level of training is an entry requirement? There are many more roles that can and should be performed by well trained police staff and often support roles are filled by expensive officers, posing challenges to cost effectiveness, and resilience.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many examples of forces working strategically to streamline and generate efficiency savings whilst maintaining a strong focus on community service and confidence. What forces need is a clear and straightforward vision for the future.
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