Public being let down too often because forces failing to manage performance, inspectorate warns

The public is being let down “too often” by policing because many forces are failing to properly manage their own performance, according to His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

Jul 7, 2023
By Paul Jacques
Andy Cooke

Andy Cooke warned too many forces make decisions based on poor data or insufficient analysis of data.

The latest report from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found while forces have improved in several areas in recent years, trust and confidence in the police is at an “all-time low”.

Mr Cooke said forces must learn from each other after the report into police performance during 2021/22 also highlighted areas of “positive practice”.

Forces’ progress in recording crime, for example, has increased from an estimated 80.5 per cent of all crime being recorded (excluding fraud) in 2014 to 92.4 per cent at the end of 2021/2022 inspections.

However, the inspectorate has found that too many forces are failing to properly understand and manage their own performance, meaning they do not know what issues are most important to tackle and where and how they can improve.

Inspectors found forces too often have “knee-jerk reactions” to long term problems and do not work proactively enough to prevent issues arising in the first place.

HMICFRS also highlighted several other issues that policing needs to address to improve the service they provide to the public, including:

  • First-line supervisors are critical to improving performance and developing the right culture in forces, but they are not getting the investment and support they need;
  • The public is too often being failed at the first point of contact, with long call delays, in particular non-emergency 101 calls; and
  • The workforce is increasingly under-resourced and under skilled, with forces not doing enough to understand why such a large proportion of its workforce are leaving and having any plans in place to tackle it.

Mr Cooke, said: “Put simply, too often and in too many forces, the public is being failed, either at the first point of contact in the response to a call for help or in the service a victim of crime receives.

“In my view there are two fundamental issues that policing needs to address to support improvements.

“First, chief constables and senior police leaders must improve the way they run their force. Governance and performance management often lack grip. Too many forces make decisions based on poor data or insufficient analysis of data. And forces’ financial and strategic planning is often short-term and short-sighted, creating avoidable problems.

“Secondly, there must be greater investment in first-line supervisors. They are critical to improving performance and developing the right culture. But they are often being let down.”

However, Mr Cooke said while the report rightly highlights areas where improvements are needed, it also includes “a wealth of examples” where police forces are performing well.

“Forces must learn from each other and should consider if the positive practice described in this report can be applied in their own area,” he said.

“But the public are still being let down too often by policing, and there are several improvements that forces need to make. “One of the first things forces need to do is to get better at understanding and managing their own performance. Without this, forces cannot aspire to provide the high level of service that the public deserves.

“The public’s trust and confidence in the police are at an all-time low, so it is vital that forces take heed of our findings and work quickly to rectify the issues highlighted.”

Mr Cooke said the police must focus on doing what matters most and doing it well.

National Police Chiefs’ Council vice-chair, Chief Constable Rachel Swann, said: “This report into police performance raises a number of concerns which have an impact on policing’s ability to deliver the high quality service our communities rightly expect and deserve.

“It particularly highlights the importance of data in driving performance and we look forward to working with forces to explore how we can best make use of data to monitor, evaluate and most importantly, improve, the core functions of policing.

“The report also recognises wide-ranging innovation and best practice from our police officers and staff across the UK, demonstrating positive change for the future and celebrating the talent we have within our workforce.

“We know that trust and confidence must be earned, and we remain resolute in our commitment to drive up standards and prioritise tackling the crimes and issues which have the greatest impact on those we serve.”

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