'Root and branch reform' of policing required to tackle crisis of confidence

The crisis of confidence in British policing can only be tackled by a root and branch reform of the entire service, according to the first of two in-depth reviews of the police service to be published this week.

Mar 8, 2022
By Tony Thompson
Sir Michael Barber

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

Key recommendation 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 practice 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 front line policing, training and technology to modernise the service from top to bottom.

Speaking ahead of the launch of the review, Sir Michael Barber 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.”

Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Martin Hewitt, said: “The Police Foundation’s final report of the strategic review of policing in England and Wales is thorough and thought provoking. We are now keen to fully understand the conclusions it draws and each of the 56 recommendations it contains. The findings will be discussed by all policing partners.

“The emphasis on confidence aligns with a collective recognition across policing for us to rebuild any trust that has been lost. We acknowledge the presentation of wide-ranging factors that may have contributed to that position, and of the differing priorities and resource requirements for policing in society today.

“Investing in the future of the service, with a focus on delivering improved outcomes for victims and strengthening local policing, are priorities for every force. We are already hard at work with other law enforcement agencies, external partners, and government, to better understand the current landscape and ensure we do not further become the service of first resort on matters which are either not crime related or could be prevented in the first place.”

The Police Foundation’s review is being published shortly ahead of a ten-year strategic review of policing by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Tom Windsor, which will be released on March 10.

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