â€˜Investment needed so police can concentrate on tackling crime’

The secretary of Dyfed Powys Police Federation says too much police time is taken up being a social service and not fighting crime.

Roger Webb has called for investment to ensure police can concentrate on tackling crime and that services with the appropriate skills and experience are responding to non-policing incidents.

Roger was speaking after the publication of the Strategic Review of Policing, which highlighted the amount of resources directed to non-policing issues because of pressures on mental health and care services.

The review found that police devote more than three million investigation hours per year to missing persons, the equivalent of 1,562 full-time police officers per year or 36 officers per force.

The total annual cost of these investigations is estimated to be between £394m and £509m - or between three and four per cent of the 2021/22 £13.7bn police budget.

“These figures should come as a shock to the public, but they won’t to our members,” said Roger, “Our role is to protect life and limb, but all too often we’re called to incidents where there’s no danger to individuals or to the public.

“We’re not trained to deal with a family breakdown or someone in a mental health crisis, and is that the best use of officers’ time?

“We need the investment in the services so the right people are responding to the right incidents, and we can be freed up to concentrate on fighting crime – which after all is what the public want us to do.”

The Strategic Review of Policing, chaired by Sir Michael Barber and carried out by the Police Foundation think tank, contains 56 recommendations urging radical reform to police culture, skills and training and organisational structure.

These include:

  • Creation of a new Crime Prevention Agency
  • Expansion of the role of the National Crime Agency so it in effect becomes a new FBI for the UK
  • Introduction of a new licence to practise for all police officers that is renewed every five years and subject to strict conditions
  • Merger of back office functions across the 43 forces that would save hundreds of millions of pounds
  • Investment in frontline policing, training and technology to modernise the service from top to bottom.

Roger said the proposal for a licence to practise would make it more difficult to attract people to policing and retain experienced officers.

“We’ve already experienced a brain drain from the service because of austerity,” said Roger, “One of the biggest challenges we face is ensuring the knowledge and skills that our experienced officers have built up is passed down to the next generations.

“A licence to practise would be a barrier to that and could lead to many experienced officers questioning their future.

“Our recent pay and morale survey found that five per cent of officers already want to leave in the next two years, that many don’t feel valued, and that their morale is at rock bottom – and this proposal is unlikely to improve things.

“Of course officers need to be held accountable for their actions and inactions, but we have processes in place. This proposal is unnecessary,” he added.

Launching the review’s final report, Sir Michael said: “There is a crisis of confidence in policing in this country which is corroding public trust.

“The reasons are deep rooted and complex – some cultural and others systemic. However taken together, unless there is urgent change, they will end up destroying the principle of policing by consent that has been at the heart of British policing for decades.

“Policing in this country is at a crossroads and it cannot stand still whilst the world changes so quickly around it. Now is the moment to move forward quickly on the path of reform. The warning signs if we do nothing are flashing red and we ignore them at our peril.

“This report represents the most comprehensive review of policing for a generation and sets out an agenda for fundamental change. It is the product of over two years of work and engagement with the police and a range of different stakeholders.

“Everyone recognises the need to shift the odds, which too often are stacked in favour of the criminal.

“We need a modern police service fit for the future which is at the cutting edge of technology and training. And we need it urgently.

“I believe the will is there and that the talented police officers who work tirelessly for the public would be the strongest champions of change.”

Read the report.