Association of Police and Crime Commissioners
Katy Bourne OBE speech for APCC/NPCC Summit – Feb 2020
Today’s summit comes just after the biggest boost to police funding for ten years and I know that PCC colleagues and Chiefs will join me in welcoming that boost.
I hope that what I can sense in the room today is mutual enthusiasm to seize this opportunity to restore public confidence in policing and put a shiver up the spine of career criminals.
A lack of public confidence means people think the police don’t care and won’t respond and that, as we know too well, emboldens criminals.
Combined with the local recruitment that my PCC colleagues are supporting through their own precept increases, the rise in police numbers will help all forces put more officers and PCSOs into neighbourhoods and build the capacity to respond to more incidents and investigate more crimes.
Like all of us here, I really welcome the recruitment of thousands of officers, but I think we also need to acknowledge that this should not simply be an exercise in turning the clock back.
Let’s face it, the years before 2010 were not a golden era for many victims of crime nor for force reputations.
Now, we have a far better police response to domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault. We have a better understanding of hidden crimes like historical sex offences, of child sexual exploitation and modern slavery.
But crime has also become increasingly digitally-enabled so our new intakes of police officers have to police both the digital beat as well as the traditional, neighbourhood beat.
The dark web has created a vast criminal marketplace and social media platforms have given undeserved reach to trolls and hate speech.
Fraudsters on the other side of the world can ruin local lives in seconds. Yes, we do need more police officers and the public know that we need them in the right place with the right skills and the best technology.
More officers mean more suspects will be pushed into the already stuffed pipelines of our criminal justice system.
We know there are pinch points. We know that criminals get away on technicalities and we know that far too many victims don’t get the justice they deserve nor the closure they desperately need.
So I am pleased that the Government announced the Commission into Criminal Justice and made more funding available for our colleagues in the Crown Prosecution Service and Prisons.
We certainly don’t under-estimate the scale of the task to transform criminal justice, and my office and colleagues in several counties, have been working alongside the Ministry of Justice and HMCTS on programmes to improve access to justice and to save police witness time.
We have all learned so much from each other and from having the will and the courage to try new approaches.
Whilst there will be more money for policing and criminal justice, we must continue to find the most efficient and effective ways to work, because that delivers true value to taxpayers and those who need your services.
The Government have put more resources into policing and they, quite rightly, expect to see results but so have the public and they not only want to see results but they also want to feel a difference. Those expectations will sit on the shoulders of the women and men in the frontline and those supporting them.
The APCC and NPCC and the College of Policing are and will work together to ensure that the resources, the guidelines and the wellbeing support mechanisms are in place to maximise the potential of the whole police workforce.
That also means having inspirational leaders at every level of policing.
The NPCC and APCC are already working together on a number of essential strands and I would urge us to keep those partnerships going where we can see they will have a genuine and positive impact.
It may be tempting for some to start a whole raft of new initiatives but that risks more years of navel-gazing when we should all be focused on what our public want…..and that is to cut crime.
We can’t afford to wait years for the right technology and we shouldn’t continue investing in too many bespoke systems across 43 forces.
Rationalisation of technology and information inevitably reinvigorates the arguments for and against force mergers.
Indeed, there are senior voices in this room who have called for the creation of much larger, combined forces to improve efficiency.
Whilst that ambition may be honest and driven by common sense around scale and commonality, it is a technocratic approach that would further remove the sense of place provided by the local policing brand that we know our communities, our public, hold so dear.
My PCC colleagues, via our Association, want to work alongside the NPCC as we continue to shape the policing direction needed to cut crime.
We have established a workable and productive balance: Government working with the NPCC and APCC to set the national agenda where common themes need joined up action - and local PCCs and their respective Chief Constables providing the policing that reflects the different needs and expectations of people in our counties, our towns and our villages.
This year’s PCC elections on 7th May will be a test of the profile and perceived value of locally accountable police governance. It will be a measure of trust and confidence in those PCCs who have ensured that Police forces were there for the whole community when neighbourhood policing was taking a back seat.
When we as PCCs ask people about what matters to them, their first reaction is to call for more visible policing and dealing with anti-social behaviour, car theft and burglary. That’s because these crimes happen to them, their families and their neighbours.
But when we and other researchers ask people to prioritise crime threats, most people put tackling terrorism and organised crime, rape and county lines at the top of the list.
The challenge for us is to resource the fight against the serious high-harm crimes whilst leaving a sufficiently convincing presence in neighbourhoods.
Few other public services are as transparent as policing and there are probably as many arm-chair detectives as we have actual police officers.
Every force and every PCC will have been offered priceless words of wisdom from those who dismiss hate crime, stalking and modern slavery as ‘niche crimes’, when we all have tragic cases of such victims who ended up murdered.
For too long, police have been the universal emergency and social service…open after 5pm and available to pick up the pieces around the clock. Multi-agency partnership may be essential but come on, it’s not a real partnership if one partner is doing all the work.
I am pleased that mental health is recognised as a huge driver of police time. I’m proud of those colleagues and forces that have made such huge strides to find appropriate care for mentally ill detainees.
I am pleased that we can talk about ‘detainees’ in custody and not ‘prisoners’ but why did it take so long to ensure we meet the basic sanitary needs of female detainees?
Everywhere we look there is something we can and should improve.
We shouldn’t have police officers spending hours accompanying people in hospital, nor should we have them spending hours waiting to give evidence for a trial that never goes ahead. With mobile handsets, we shouldn’t still have officers typing up statements in police stations.
We are on the verge of having a digitally equipped police service from Body Worn Video and mobile data terminals to digital evidence files.
The security v privacy debate about surveillance technology is only just beginning and we need some honest assessments about effectiveness and consistency if we are to make certain technologies acceptable to the public.
The APCC and the NPCC want to give officers the best tools to protect the public from harm and we want to see a criminal justice system that deals robustly and consistently with offenders. We want to – and we simply must - cut crime.
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