A new report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICRFRS) looking at police effectiveness around the UK has found some cracks are starting to appear with regards to the standard of service to the general public.
Forces were assessed against specialist capabilities, protecting vulnerable people and preventing crime and tackling anti-social behaviour. It was found that more than two-thirds of forces across England and Wales were good at keeping people safe and reducing crime, with one force graded outstanding for the third consecutive year.
But leader of the inspection Zoe Billingham did note that around one-quarter of forces are “all too often overwhelmed” by the levels of demand they face, which is leading to a backlog of emergency jobs and officers not being able to attend incidents quickly.
Areas that need to be addressed even now include: a lack of progress in understanding why large numbers of crimes are being written off, why nearly half of all forces are not using the information on the Police National Computer to locate and arrest suspects, why some forces are struggling to evaluate the risks from certain offenders, and why an 18 per cent hike in the number of overdue assessments has occurred.
Inspector Billingham commented: “Last year, we warned of a national crisis in the shortage of detectives. Measures to address this are taking time to take effect. There is now a shortfall of 5,000 investigators across England and Wales. This means one in five detective desks are empty or are filled with unqualified staff. It is not surprising that this often places a very great strain on existing detectives.
“I am pleased that forces continue to prioritise and improve how they keep vulnerable victims safe. But progress is stubbornly slow. Performance is still below standard in nearly half of all forces.
“Police officers, police staff and PCSOs rise to significant challenges every single day. It is vital that police leaders take effective action to stop the problems we have found becoming ever more entrenched and widespread.”
Further research from the HMICFRS has found that police forces currently lack sufficiently deep understanding of the capabilities and skills of their particular workforce, which means that their ability to meet demands in the future could be compromised.
The Police Leadership 2017 report indicates few forces in the country have appropriate succession plans in place and too many are now taking a short-term and reactive approach to address the needs of the future, given increasingly fast-changing demands and more complex crimes.
Inspector Matt Parr noted that talent is currently not being managed properly and selection processes for future leaders are not “perceived as fair” by the workforce. Not all those working in the sector are being given fair access to career progression and development, so better performance management across the board is required, he recommended.
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