On Wednesday we focussed on operational challenges where our joint response is crucial. Firstly, serious organised crime which is a key national security threat and where many, many different bodies contribute effort. We looked at some detailed analysis which showed just how much local policing effort is linked to serous organised crime. Some local crime is still local but more and more local crime has international links. The Director General of the National Crime Agency, Lynne Owens used case studies to illustrate how the NCA’s specialist capabilities can solve horrific cases of online abuse of vulnerable people which were just unsolvable for local forces. Lynne is working closely with Chief Constable Andy Cooke to ensure that all our capabilities are better networked, that we focus on preventing serious organised crime as well as responding to it and that we have more focus on organised crime targeting the vulnerable and economic crime.
Chiefs also considered the effectiveness of police air support and were briefed on a report from HMIC which will be published soon. It was clear that while the money spent on air support had reduced over the last five years that the level of service had reduced even more. Chiefs agreed that we need to do more work on the operational requirement for air support so that if cuts are made we understand the impact of our reduced capacity to pursue crimes in action or to protect vulnerable people.
We were briefed by Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley on the Parson’s Green attack and the response of forces to the threat level moving to critical again. Many additional protective patrols had been mounted across the country and these had been key to the arrest of the bomber.
On Thursday we reviewed some of the key organisational work that colleagues have been undertaking on our behalf. Chief Constable Dave Thompson briefed colleagues on our joint work with Police and Crime Commissioners. We are currently working with Home Office officials to set out the details of increased crime and non-crime demand, the impact that this is having on our staff and service to the public and the case for investment in neighbourhood policing, counter terrorism and organised crimes such as cyber and economic crime. Chiefs are concerned about the way in which proactive and preventative policing is being squeezed as resources have been reduced. This was apparent in the use of the powers to stop and search which have fallen from 1.1 million searches a year six years ago to 230,000 searches last year. Some of that drop is definitely about better intelligence-led use of the power but some is about fewer officers with the time for proactive policing.
We have been working with the College of Policing to develop professional skills and accreditation is policing through what is known as the Police Educational Qualification Framework. Most chiefs are supportive of developing entry into the service through a degree apprenticeship route or graduate entry. This will be a significant change to the way that forces recruit and train officers which better equip officers for their challenging role. There are also proposals to link promotions to qualifications and while most are supportive of this as our ultimate goal there remain concerns about its affordability, feasibility and the timescales for implementation. Chiefs encouraged the College to avoid early mandation of such an approach and that more work was needed to understand what it would mean for officers and forces before solid commitments are made to an implementation plan. I am very grateful for the way in which the interim Chief Executive officer of the College, Rachel Tuffin, has listened to concerns and responded with humour and graciousness.
Throughout our two days together colleagues were careful to avoid making commitments to initiatives which are good and right things to do but for which there is no funding. For example, while we support the reform of out of court disposals, such as cautions and warnings, we are concerned that to implement conditional cautions properly is more expensive than current arrangements. Similarly, the use of video conferencing makes sense for most administrative hearings in the criminal justice system but to do so for initial remand hearings in the magistrates Court will require space, technology and staff in police stations that, with the exception of one national pilot, are unfunded.
Chief Constable Andy Cooke: Serious and Organised Crime
Chief Constable Dave Thompson: Police Efficiency, Shared Services and Procurement