Police forces urged to get back to the future
The majority of police forces in England and Wales continue to do a good job in identifying current demand and managing their resources, according to a report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
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However, forces need to do more to better understand future demand and to ensure that their staff have the necessary skills to deal with that demand.
The annual Efficiency inspection assessed how police forces use their resources now and how they plan to do so in the future. Thirty-three of the 43 police forces in England and Wales were assessed as ‘good’, two as ‘outstanding’ and eight as ‘requires improvement’.
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Mike Cunningham, who led the inspection, said:
“I am pleased to find that the majority of forces understand the demand they are facing and have effective plans in place to meet that demand. There needs to be more focus on the future, on understanding new and different types of demand and on the skills that police forces will need to best deal with the new challenges, especially in growing areas such as cyber-crime.
“Every year, we highlight how important it is for forces to embrace the challenges and opportunities presented by digital technology. It is now imperative that forces agree consistent standards on how they can share systems and data if they are to catch up with current technology and look to develop and evolve in the future.
“Forces have met the financial challenges of the last five years and most forces demonstrate a better understanding of the demand they are facing than we found last year. But the very best forces demonstrate an approach to reform and innovation that needs to be more evident in more forces.
“There is still scope for forces to transform the way in which they operate and it is vital that the pace and urgency of change continues if we are to have a police force fit to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
The report into police efficiency is accompanied by separate reports on each force, based on inspections carried out from March to June 2016 and data provided by forces on their spending plans for future years.
Planning and predicting demand
Forces need to improve their understanding of future demand and link it to their financial and organisational planning, so that they are in a fit shape to face future challenges; the best forces are already doing this.
The two outstanding forces – Durham Police and West Midlands Police – were able to demonstrate a sophisticated level of planning which incorporated an analysis of future demand, including proactively looking for those areas of crime which tend to be under-reported, such as cyber crime. They have a proven ability to develop and deliver change, drawing expertise from both police officers and police staff.
Most forces have a good understanding of the current demand for their service and they know their current capacity (the costs and numbers of their workforce). However, most forces still do not understand their current capability (what skills their workforce has) and how to develop those to meet future demand. Too many forces have been reducing their workforce to meet budget reductions without understanding how that will affect capability, now and in the future.
Almost every force is able to demonstrate some progress in improving collaborative working with other forces on services such as forensics, but examples of where forces are treating collaboration as an opportunity to improve services for existing or potential victims of crime are fewer. Some forces have been unable to demonstrate the benefits that collaborative working has brought for victims, or for the efficiency of the force, and some may actually be causing the force to perform less well.
While almost all forces intend to make use of mobile technology, digital skills remain a significant gap. Police forces continue to struggle with the large number of different IT systems and, in particular, how they work together to share and search for data. Very few forces are focusing on developing their officers’ and staff’s digital skills, despite a universal acceptance that digital skills are becoming an increasingly important part of police work.
HMIC will return to inspect the efficiency of policing in England and Wales in 2017, when we expect to see significant developments in the scale and ambition of forces’ plans to predict and meet demand as crime evolves.
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Notes to editors
- The two forces which were found to be ‘outstanding’ are:
- Durham; and
- West Midlands.
- The eight forces which were found to be in the ‘requires improvement’ category are:
- Last year, the Efficiency strand of HMIC’s 2015 annual PEEL (Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy) inspections found that five forces were ‘outstanding’, 35 were ‘good’ and three forces were graded as ‘requires improvement’.
- Individual assessment reports are available for each of the 43 police forces in England and Wales.
- As part of its annual inspections into police efficiency, effectiveness and legitimacy (PEEL), HMIC’s Efficiency programme assessed how a force maximises the outcomes from its available resources. We reviewed both the financial and workforce planning of police forces whilst examining wider questions of cost, capacity and capability. Our inspection focused on the overall question, ‘How efficient is the force at keeping people safe and reducing crime?’
To answer this question HMIC looked at three areas:
- How well do police forces understand their current and likely future demand?
- How well do police forces use their resources to manage current demand?
- How well are police forces planning for demand in the future?
- This report will be followed by reports into the remaining strands of the annual PEEL assessments – Effectiveness and Legitimacy – of all 43 police forces of England and Wales. The judgments in this report will be counted towards the next HMIC PEEL assessment, published next year.
- Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest. It assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies.
- For further information, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:30pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
- HMIC’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729.