Britain’s police at breaking point: Damning report lays bare problems

Police at breaking point: Damning report reveals forces struggling to deal with 10-year-high murder rate and huge rises in crimes such as domestic violence against a 20% drop in funding

  • Chief inspector of constabulary Sir Thomas Winsor said public safety is at risk
  • In his annual report on policing in Britain he said reforms are urgently needed
  • He highlighted 19 per cent drop in funding since 2010, and surging crime rates 
  • He called on police chiefs and MPs to make ‘bold decisions’ to improve policing

Britain’s police are at breaking point as they struggle to cope with a 10-year-high murder rate, a surge in crime and a raft of budget cuts, a damning report reveals.

Chief inspector of constabulary Sir Thomas Winsor said public safety is at risk unless ‘profound and far-reaching’ police reforms are urgently introduced.

In his annual assessment of policing in England and Wales, Sir Thomas said if changes are not made, forces ‘face unacceptable compromises in quality of service levels of public safety’.

In his report for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services he called on police chiefs and politicians to make ‘bold and long-term decisions’ to improve policing.

In his annual assessment of policing in England and Wales, Sir Thomas said if changes are not made, forces ‘face unacceptable compromises in quality of service levels of public safety’ (stock image)

He highlighted a 19 per cent drop in police funding since 2010/11, with £12.3billion handed to forces this year. 

Police have a workforce of around 122,000 police officers and 68,000 police staff. This was around one police officer for every 480 people, according to the report.

Sir Tom Winsor said public safety is at risk unless ‘profound and far-reaching’ police reforms are urgently introduced

The report found the homicide rate is at its highest in 10 years, with police recording nearly 600,000 domestic abuse-related crimes last year, an increase of 23% year-on-year.

Since 2010 the number of career criminals, offenders with more than 15 previous convictions or cautions, has risen. In 2018 37 per cent of offenders were described as career criminals – an increase of 10 per cent since 2008.

Police in poorer areas are ‘more financially stretched’ and the public in those areas are ‘less safe’, he said as he called for the funding formula to be revised. 

He said crime rates are no longer falling and some of the most complex crimes are on the rise, he said.

The Novichok attack in Salisbury, the drone incident at Gatwick Airport and the environmental protests were examples of ‘extraordinary’ and challenging cases which officers have handled in the last year.

Police officers on the streets during the London Bridge terror attack on June 3 2017

Street violence is rising with several forces seeing a higher demand to tackle knife crime, he said.

Sir Thomas Winsor blasts Boris Johnson’s promise to put an extra 20,000 bobbies on the beat

Boris Johnson’s pledge to boost police numbers by 20,000 in three years ‘may not be the most effective way of spending on policing’, the chief inspector of constabulary has said.

Sir Thomas Winsor welcomed the Tory leadership frontrunner’s proposal but said it was ‘simple’ and may not solve all the problems faced by forces.

Mr Johnson has vowed to swell the police service to more than 140,000 officers by mid-2022 if he wins the race for Number 10.

Police officer numbers in England and Wales have dropped by more than 20,000 since 2009 with Home Office figures showing a reduction from 144,353 to 122,395 in 2018. 

Sir Thomas, when asked by reporters whether he welcomed the pledge, said:  ‘It’s certainly simple but it may not be the most effective way of spending on policing.

‘I’m not for a moment saying we don’t need more cops and police staff.

‘I’m sure Boris Johnson doesn’t expect people to believe there will be 20,000 police officers on the streets by Christmas.’ 

The report found the criminal justice system is ‘failing’, placing extra burden on police.

Sir Thomas said it was ‘malfunctioning in too many respects’ with ‘severe inefficiencies in prosecutions to the detriment of victims, witnesses and the accused’.

He said there are delays and disclosure failures leaving people struggling to get legal representation and justice.

He also highlighted ‘appalling’ prison conditions that are ‘brutalising’ people which in turn causes people to ‘become brutal’.

Sir Winsor also blasted Tory leadership contender Boris Johnson’s plan to spend £1billion on 20,000 extra police officers, saying it ‘may not be the most effective way of spending on policing’.   

In the report, which looks at the state of policing between April 2018 and May 2019, Sir Thomas said: ‘There are indications that some forces are straining under significant pressure as they try to meet growing complex and high-risk demand with weakened resources.

‘I believe some profound and far-reaching aspects of police reforms are called for.

‘For these reforms to take place, leaders in central government, police and crime commissioners and chief constables will all need to make bold, long-term decisions.

‘If they don’t the windspeed of police reform will fall to a flutter, leaving the police service increasingly unable to meet the demands it faces.

A police officer gesturing to the snow outside a Zizzi in Salisbury where Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia, were poisoned

‘The inevitable legacy of such an approach would be unacceptable compromises in both the quality of service the police can offer the public and the level of public safety and security the police can uphold.’ 

Knife and offensive weapon crimes at nine-year high

The number of criminals caught with knives or dangerous weapons has hit its highest level since 2010, official figures have revealed.

More than 22,000 offences of possessing or making threats with blades or offensive weapons resulted in a conviction or caution in England and Wales in 2018-19.

 One in five of the culprits was aged between 10 and 17, figures from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) show.

(PA Graphics)

The statistics also showed that almost two-thirds of cases did not result in an immediate prison term.

The figures, released quarterly and based on estimates, are broadly in line with the data published three months ago.

The statistics showed that, in 2018-19, the criminal justice system dealt with 22,041 knife and offensive weapon incidents – an increase of 34% on the same 12-month period to March 2015.

The latest figures show the highest number of offences dealt with since the year ending March 2010, when there were 23,667 cases. 

He said there would be ‘major improvements in police effectiveness and efficiency’ if the recommendations he made were carried out ‘competently, comprehensively and with resolve.’ 

The proposals include investment in technology to keep up with and get ahead of emerging online offending, and introducing mandatory standards to prevent inefficiency and ineffectiveness in policing.

Policing has undergone more reforms in the last eight or nine years since 1829 when the Metropolitan Police was established, Sir Thomas said.

Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council  said: ‘The findings make clear that we can only deliver effective justice if all of the criminal justice system works together.

‘To do that, all those with a part to play must be properly resourced, and as the report points out, that isn’t currently the case.

‘Sir Tom makes a compelling case for long term sustainable funding.’

Policing minister Nick Hurd said: ‘We have already made progress reforming the police system.’

He added that the government recognises ‘there is still more to do.’

He said it was ‘working with policing leaders across the country to build a smarter, more efficient, system with crime prevention at its heart.’

He added: ‘Police funding has increased by more than £1 billion this year, including council tax and money to tackle serious violence.

‘Police and crime commissioners have already indicated they plan to recruit over 3,500 extra officers and staff.

‘We also recognise there are wider pressures on the criminal justice system and the Government is working hard to address these.’

Cleveland Police blasted over work practices as officers share laptops

Work practices at Cleveland Police were ‘about as inefficient as you can possibly imagine’ with officers sharing laptops and bodyworn cameras, the chief inspector of constabulary said.

During a visit to the force in March, Sir Thomas Winsor said he was ‘startled to discover’ the force did not have enough bodyworn cameras for all frontline officers on shift because it could not afford it.

He said this would have been a broadly one-off cost of £300,000, adding: ‘It’s really extraordinary why they didn’t do that.’

He said some officers were still making notes with pen and paper and then at the end of their shifts ‘queuing up’ to ‘take turns to key in’ the information to force laptops – because there were not enough laptops to go around.

‘That’s about as inefficient as you can possibly imagine.’

 The force’s chief constable Richard Lewis said: ‘We note Sir Thomas Winsor’s recognition that we are taking these challenges seriously and look forward to continuing to work with him as we move forward.’ 

Area the size of Greater London was covered by just two PCs and one sergeant

TWO PCs and a single sergeant were left to cover an area of Devon the size of Greater London, it has been revealed.

The Police Federation chair for Devon and Cornwall Police has called for an urgent review into rural police numbers after the shortage came to light.

Inspector Andrew Berry says victims of rural crime are being failed, with officers now operating on such a ‘shoestring’ that some offenders are being driven home rather than arrested.

Last Friday night, there was just one sergeant and two constables responding to crime over a 350sq mile area in the county.

County Lines drug dealing and the national funding formula has squeezed rural policing, he said.

The Police Federation chair for Devon and Cornwall Police has called for an urgent review into rural police numbers after the shortage came to light (stock)

Officers are being taken away from investigating and responding to 999 calls to help people with mental health issues and replace ambulances when paramedics do not arrive on time.

It comes after shocking new Home Office figures showed yesterday that forces had lost 22,000 officers since 2009 thanks to austerity cuts.

Tory leadership candidate Boris Johnson on Thursday pledged an extra 20,000 bobbies on the beat, with a particular focus on rural areas.

Inspector Berry said the low numbers were dangerous for the public and police officers.

He said: ‘You almost dare not arrest anybody for the sake there would be nobody out there at all to drive a police car or answer calls.

‘Absolutely on a busy evening where there’s a lot going on, officers would be wary of arresting someone for a minor crime in case a more serious one might take place.

‘If the mood of people coming out of pubs and clubs is a bit feisty, you would be more likely to try and look for other methods of dealing with people.

‘You might drive them home rather than arrest them for alleged assault.

‘Officers get mindful if they arrest too quickly, you can leave absolutely nobody working the streets.

‘It’s my experience that if you put off trying to arrest somebody it can come back and bite you because they go and do something stupid somewhere else.

‘But sometimes that is the choice that is made.’

Insp Berry said arresting and taking someone to custody takes officers off the streets.

If the suspect is injured detectives will have to wait for them in A&E.

 Tory leadership candidate Boris Johnson on Thursday pledged an extra 20,000 bobbies on the beat, with a particular focus on rural areas (stock)

On a normal day, he said there should be around eight constables covering the area in question, an area of 350 square miles that includes Dartmoor, Okehampton and Tavistock.

Other forces, such as Norfolk Constabulary, have called for a greater recognition of rural crime.

North Yorkshire Police have organised a volunteer watch scheme to help response officers.

Insp Berry added: ‘In terms of back up, it’s something that sticks in the back of the minds of officers.

‘They’re alone, there’s no cavalry coming to help them.

‘Are they going to be as willing to stop a car with four thugs in it, if they are out in the sticks 30 or 40 minutes away from any help.

‘They might be less likely to stop it and think about other things they can do.

‘You get a situation where you have a single officer, or even two officers, going to a fight or serious domestic incident at somebody’s home.

‘The likelihood of getting assaulted in the process of trying to make an arrest or protect a vulnerable people is heightened.

‘If there is no one else coming it can be dangerous, there’s a higher likelihood of getting assaulted if you are by yourself and trying to deal with those circumstances.’

The inspector explained the police lose officers to all sorts of situations, which takes bobbies away from responding to crime.

He said: ‘A person who is not a criminal, just ill, requires a mental health assessment.

‘The teams are so short staffed we could lose two officers for an entire shift to that.

‘If a prisoner has any signs of injury or illness they are required to go to hospital and we are required to send officers to guard them.

‘I regularly hear about police officers taking people to hospital because the ambulance doesn’t get there in time.’

He added: ‘From the Federation’s perspective we are absolutely concerned with the quality of service the public gets.

‘It’s the reality of operating on a shoestring.’

Tory leadership candidate Mr Johnson has promised an extra 20,000 police on the streets, which would cost around £1 billion.

He said they would be hired ‘with a particular focus on rural areas that have seen the biggest reductions in police funding.’

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: ‘Devon and Cornwall Police cover one of the largest geographical regions in the UK, including large rural areas.

‘Both the Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner have been vocal about having rural policing and also summer policing recognised within funding formula.

‘All resources available are utilised and officers can be moved across borders to deal with demand when necessary.

‘Allocation of demand is not just random but based on threat, harm and risk of an area.

‘Some of the more rural locations in Devon and Cornwall will have less demand than cities like Plymouth or Exeter.

‘While some areas may have officers covering larger areas than others, this does not reflect the use of Force support groups, dog units, road policing teams and armed response vehicles.

‘These teams can add additional support when and where they are needed.’

Source: Read Full Article