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Home Affairs Committee

Oral evidence: Policing priorities, HC 635

Wednesday 18 January 2023

Ordered by the House of Commons to be published on 18 January 2023.

Watch the meeting

Members present: Dame Diana Johnson (Chair); Ms Diane Abbott; Paula Barker; James Daly; Simon Fell; Carolyn Harris; Marco Longhi; Tim Loughton.

Questions 104-208


I: Andy Cooke QPM DL, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary and His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services.

II: Steve Hartshorn, National Chair, Police Federation; and Harvi Khatkar, Chief Superintendent and Vice President, Police Superintendents Association.

Written evidence from witnesses:

Police Federation of England and Wales

Police Superintendents’ Association


Examination of witness

Witness: Andy Cooke QPM DL.

Q104       Chair: Good morning and welcome to this sitting of the Home Affairs Committee. We are carrying on our inquiry into policing priorities. We are pleased to be joined this morning by Andy Cooke, the chief inspector at His Majesty’s chief inspectorates of constabulary and of fire and rescue services. You are very welcome. To start us off, this is obviously a very difficult week for policing again, with policing in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. I think we are all very shocked about the case of David Carrick. I want to ask you some questions about what seems to be the systematic failure of the police system that allowed this man to carry on as a police officer. I was reading that he has been an officer since 2001. He was known, we understand, by his colleagues as “Bastard Dave”, because he was mean and cruel. He was known to three police forces for allegations made against him. He sailed through his vetting in 2017. He was promoted to the parliamentary and diplomatic protection service. I just wonder, Mr Cooke, how was this man allowed to serve as a police officer for so long?

Andy Cooke: It is quite clear that there have been significant failures throughout this. As you will be aware, in 2021 we did a review of vetting, misogyny and counter-corruption in forces across the country on a thematic basis. What we saw there resulted in the most recommendations we have issued on an inspection before. There were 43 recommendations, both for the College of Policing and the Home Office. Those have all been accepted and will all be progressed.

Obviously, the offences committed by this individual are absolutely despicable. No individual who is that way inclined should be allowed anywhere near a police uniform. Policing needs to get better at rooting out these individuals earlier. As I say, there have been 43 recommendations made by ourselves in relation to this. We must bear in mind as well that an awful lot of good police officers out there do a good job on a daily basis, but one officer like this absolutely slurs the whole profession. It will remain with policing for some time.

As we know, it is not the first issue relating to officers who have committed serious offences. This is not just about the Metropolitan police either. This is a nationwide issue. The culture that is pervasive in some parts of policing needs to be rooted out. Police chiefs need to take an exceptionally strong line with it. We need to look at what we can do on a wider police system basis in relation to this. Certainly from an inspectorate perspective, we will be going very quickly back into forces to make sure the recommendations we have suggested and requested—as we are an inspectorate, not a regulator—are being completed. I have to have confidence that each chief constable will take that seriously and do it quickly, and not just within the timescales we have set but quicker than that. It is important that the country has good confidence and trust in policing once again. It is at the lowest level that I can remember as a police officer, as we know, and I had a 36-year career before I joined the inspectorate. We need to ensure that policing quickly and professionally takes on these recommendations and does what it needs to do to start rooting out and preventing further officers and staff like this joining policing.

Q105       Chair: We have just been talking about David Carrick, but we know from the previous session with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner that there are over 800 police officers in the Met who are being investigated for concerns about domestic abuse or sexual assaults. That is 800 who are being investigated in the Met.

Andy Cooke: It is a shocking statistic.

Chair: It is a shocking statistic.

Andy Cooke: It doesn’t mean that all 800 have committed some sort of offence, but the investigations are there. That is replicated across the country, not to that scale obviously, but there will be many more officers across the country also being investigated by good police officers and police staff who want to ensure that policing is held to the highest standards, which the public quite rightly expect.

Q106       Chair: Particularly on the issue of women and the way the police forces behave towards women, both internally between colleagues and how they treat women as members of the general public, what is the problem with the police service and women?

Andy Cooke: It is a very good question. We all know it is not every police officer. We know that 40% of chief constables now are females.

Q107       Chair: But do you think the system is at fault? I absolutely agree that there are many, many police officers who do an exceptionally good job and are committed to serving the public. But there is a real problem with the systems in the police service, isn’t there?

Andy Cooke: There is a problem, obviously, with the vetting approach in relation to this.

Q108       Chair: Yes, but the culture?

Andy Cooke: There are undoubtedly significant issues with policing culture, but misogyny is a societal issue, not just a policing issue.

Q109       Chair: That is no excuse. Mr Cooke, that is no excuse.

Andy Cooke: I am not making an excuse. I am just making the point. Policing obviously needs to be held to higher standards than other people because of the powers that police officers have. Policing is recruiting quickly from the community. It needs to make sure it is recruiting the right people.

Q110       Chair: We know that is a problem, and it is an ongoing problem from your report at the end of last year. The vetting procedures and the recruitment procedures are not good enough. Can I ask you very bluntly whether you think the police service is institutionally sexist?

Andy Cooke: No, I don’t.

Q111       Chair: Why?

Andy Cooke: Look at the fact that we now have more female police officers than before. On the most recent intake, four out of every 10 officers joining are female. Roughly 40% of the policing establishment is female, and 40% of chief constables are female. Policing has come on leaps and bounds over many years on this.

Is it institutionally misogynist? No, I don’t think it is. Are there significant issues in parts of policing? Are there significant issues with individuals and groups in parts of policing? Then yes, there are.

Q112       Chair: Okay. I am just looking at your report from the end of last year, which says, “We were left in no doubt that, in too many places, a culture of misogyny, sexism and predatory behaviour towards members of the public and female police officers and staff still exists.

Andy Cooke: Absolutely. We did a survey of 11,000 officers and staff, and those results were shocking.

Q113       Chair: I think we should call this what it is: it is actually institutional sexism.

Andy Cooke: I will say there are significant issues in relation to sexism and misogyny.

Q114       Chair: Okay. When you came to give evidence to us last March, you made a comment that you didn’t feel there was a problem with police officers being able to come forward and report colleagues who were behaving in an unprofessional way, such as in a predatory, racist or sexist way. You said that to us in March last year. Your report at the end of last year says something very different—that there is a problem with officers coming forward. Do you now accept that is the position?

Andy Cooke: My initial statement was based on my own personal experience within Merseyside police. That was the first time I had appeared before the Committee as chief HMI. In my previous experience, plenty of officers have come forward. Most of the misconduct issues that occurred in Merseyside were as a result of officers coming forward and saying, “There is an issue with this individual. There is an issue in how this individual is behaving.” Having seen some of the issues around the country subsequently, more needs to be done to ensure that officers can feel safe in coming forward, that officers do not feel pressured not to come forward  and that policing is far more open in its ability to ensure that those officers are looked after.

Q115       Chair: So there is a problem.

Andy Cooke: Yes, there is.

Q116       Tim Loughton: On that point, do you cover instances of whistleblowing? If not, should you do that in more detail? In my experience looking at organisations, when asked if they have a whistleblowing policy they will say yes, but if asked, “How many cases have you had?”, they will say, “Oh, we’ve only had two or three.” To me, that is a sign of weakness. Do we have proper auditing of constabularies to see how many whistleblowing cases they have, the level of severity and how they are taken forward? If some constabularies appear to have hundreds and others appear to have just tens, then clearly something is wrong, because there will not be that much of a difference in incidents happening from one end of the country to the other. How do you handle that?

Andy Cooke: Every police force in the country has a confidential phone line for those who wish to bring issues to the attention of senior officers and police complaints. I do not have the figure available for how many from each force actually use that or the number of whistleblowers, but I can certainly see if we do hold that information.

Q117       Tim Loughton: Do you routinely collect that information?

Andy Cooke: I do not know if we routinely collect that information or not. I will have to check.

Q118       Tim Loughton: With respect, Mr Cooke, it is slightly worrying that for something that is a big issue, you do not know whether that is something that you audit and oversee, albeit you have not yet been the chief inspector for a year.

Andy Cooke: We audit and oversee all police complaints departments. We look at counter-corruption and how well forces are dealing with counter-corruption issues as part of our wider approach to inspecting each force. We look at various parts of that to ensure that what police officers are doing in those police complaints departments is professional and is actually making a difference for the public that they serve. As you will be aware, decisions are made in relation to vetting. At our last vetting inspection, we found one in five investigations by police complaints departments and decisions made were inconsistent or we did not agree with them. That is in itself a concern—that is 20% of those investigations.

Tim Loughton: Perhaps we can have some more detailed information because I think whistleblowing is an important issue here. If you are going to restore confidence, people need to know that if they are going to whistleblow, it is going to have some impact. We would like to see some information on that, please.

Q119       Chair: I agree. I will move on to Diane Abbott in one second, but could you give us your view about the current status of a police constable’s employment? There is some concern about whether chief constables have the necessary powers to remove officers from their position as a police constable. We understand they are different from a normal employment status, so could you explain that status and what you think should happen?

Andy Cooke: Police constables are not employees. They hold a different status: they are Crown servants. In cases of misconduct, it is far more difficult to dispense with an officer’s services than it is for every other employee. Obviously, police officers cannot strike, so there are other benefits that go alongside that.

As we are all aware, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and others have stated that the issue of having legally qualified chairs is causing a problem and that the head of each organisation should be able to decide who should work in that organisation. I know the Government have said that there is going to be a report commissioned in relation to this. It needs to be done quickly, in my view. We need to very quickly identify if there is a better way of dealing with these issues. The statistics do not necessarily bear out all the claims that are being made, so we need to say definitively, “This is the situation. This is what we need to do.” There are certainly police forces around the world where officers have a different status, such as employee, and I am sure that that is one part of what will be looked at.

Q120       Chair: That is the internal review that the Home Secretary talked about yesterday in the Chamber.

Andy Cooke: Yes.

Q121       Chair: Do you know anything further about that? Do you know about the timescale or who is doing it?

Andy Cooke: I do not.

Chair: All right. Thank you very much.

Q122       Ms Abbott: I want to ask you about balancing priorities, but first, I want to follow up briefly on some of the points that the Chair raised. In response to her questioning, you said that sexism is a societal problem. I cannot think of a case in wider society where somebody is being convicted of 24 cases of rape. Are you sure you were saying that there is nothing particular about policemen and their attitude to issues of gender?

Andy Cooke: I cannot speak for every police officer, but certainly the vast majority of police officers do not hold that sort of view and approach. We have seen plenty of serious sexual offences happen elsewhere. It is worse when it is a police officer—I fully accept that—because police have special powers; police have a role in society, and no officer should ever be allowed to serve as a police officer with this sort of mentality. I fully accept that, but what I cannot accept is that every officer has that mindset.

Q123       Ms Abbott: On the culture in the police force, one of the striking things about the David Carrick case is that over 20 years, nobody ever thought there was anything they could report. He was called “Bastard Carrick”—that must have been for a reason. One of the striking things is that there was no one around him who saw that his attitude to women was problematic, and his senior officers promoted him. Does that not speak to a culture in the Met?

Andy Cooke: This is obviously one issue on top of a number of issues that we have seen with the Metropolitan police force previously. Why this individual was not identified earlier either by colleagues or senior officers or through systems and IT, I really do not know, and that is what—

Q124       Ms Abbott: It is a culture, isn’t it? That is why he was not identified.

Andy Cooke: We can point to plenty of officers who have been identified by other officers for wrongdoing and having the wrong approach to policing, so it is not universal.

Q125       Ms Abbott: I have one last point on the Carrick case. In response to the Chair, you tried to rebut the idea of institutional sexism, and you talked about recruiting all these women police officers, women chief constables and all the rest of it. In my experience, very often in an organisation that is institutionally sexist or institutionally racist, in order to get to the top of that organisation, you have to internalise the culture. Having women chief constables does not mean that a force cannot remain institutionally sexist.

Andy Cooke: I accept your point, and as I have already stated, I believe there are significant issues with misogyny and sexism that need to be rooted out by policing as soon as possible.

Q126       Ms Abbott: Finally, on the very poor outcomes for rape and sexual assault cases, why do you think the outcomes are so poor and so slow?

Andy Cooke: This is a significant issue for the criminal justice system throughout, not just policing. I think it is an absolute—I will use the word disgrace—that it takes over 700 days for a report of rape to actually start a trial. Delayed justice is no justice, at times, and the impact of that on victims is absolutely wrong. The whole criminal justice system needs to work together to ensure that those delays are removed, and that victims do get proper justice and swift justice.

Chair: It is interesting that for rape, which is predominantly a crime against women, the conviction rates and prosecution rates are so particularly low. Again, this just feeds into my feeling around the institutional sexism within police forces. I know you do not agree with me on that, but it is just interesting when you look at the evidence.

Q127       James Daly: Can I support the Chair on that? I think this is such a serious issue, and when we talk about figures in respect of rape and serious sexual offending, there is a lot of smoke and mirrors by everybody in respect of this. Yes, there are issues with delays, but the major issue regarding why cases do not get to court is because police officers do not refer rape allegations, especially, in any significant number to the Crown Prosecution Service. Would you agree with that? That is where the major problem is: we have a charge-out rate of 1.5% for rape.

Andy Cooke: There are complex issues involved in relation to rape itself and the prosecution of rape. It is very much for the Crown Prosecution Service and policing to work together to vastly improve the number of charges going forward. I remember a time when CPS and policing used to actually sit in the same room and work together, which made the issues of discussing difficult cases far easier than it is today. My staff and I have worked on inspections, and we have seen people who are absolutely committed to getting as many rapists before the courts as possible, so I really do not think this is a misogyny issue at all.

Q128       James Daly: Can I just say, Mr Cooke—I am sorry to put this bluntly to you—that you are a man who has spent over 30 years in the police force, and some of your answers here today appear to be not an impartial assessment of the police, but actually a defence of the police. We are asking you questions here: the rate is 1.5%, and if what forces should be doing is being sat in the same room as a lawyer, it does not take a genius to work that out. The fact that that is not happening is outrageous.

I go back to my point, which is this: the major issue regarding matters getting to court is that police officers are not referring allegations of rape to the Crown Prosecution Service. We have a charge-out rate of 1.5%. I have looked for all sorts of reasons for this, and I agree with what the Chair has just said: there has to be an attitude of misogyny within the police force that is allowing all these cases to not be prosecuted. All these victims who are coming forward are not even getting the chance to have their case assessed by the Crown Prosecution Service, and I would just like to know what your recommendation is—what you think we should do to change that. Let’s be blunt about it: people are not coming and lying, or not telling the truth. It is because the police are taking a deliberate attitude to female victims of crime, isn’t it? It’s got to be.

Andy Cooke: Look, I am not being defensive about policing. I accept fully, and have accepted for some time, that it is a disgrace—I just mentioned that word—that it is taking so long to get to court and not enough people are being prosecuted. This is not about my independence or not; this is about a very complex issue that policing is, in my view, doing its best to improve. It is not happening quickly enough.

If you want an example, Operation Soteria is the approach that is being taken in some forces around the country as a pilot. It is being led by Avon and Somerset, and we are seeing increased numbers of charges in relation to rape as a result of focusing on the offender. Changes in relation to how rapes are investigated, such as being less intrusive for victims so that victims feel more comfortable going through the whole process, are essential. In my view, the way it is done at the moment, and what policing needs to do to be as intrusive as it is in relation to victims, is quite clearly wrong.

Q129       James Daly: How do you think the police treat vulnerable victims who come forward? I am asking about victims who may have substance addictions, who may have mental health issues—who may have all sorts of challenges in their life—because those are the people, the most vulnerable, who are less likely to get their case in court. Not only do we have a situation where, in my view, there is rampant misogyny in the consideration of these matters, but, if you are vulnerable, if you have challenges, if you need support, you are not going to get your case even referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Andy Cooke: That’s just not true.

Q130       James Daly: That’s not true? You are saying that’s not true and that’s not happening?

Andy Cooke: No. I refer you to my previous force: an awful lot of work was done by the specialised unit working with sex workers and drug users who were reporting sexual offences, and they were having good success in relation to bringing those cases forward. So if that happens, that is not just a Merseyside Police issue; that is an issue across the country. Is it as good as it should be? No. But to say that no sex worker or no vulnerable person is going to get their case to court—it just isn’t true.

Q131       James Daly: So tell me this, Mr Cooke. There is a 1.5% charge-out rate. What should the charge-out rate be?

Andy Cooke: I cannot put a figure on what that charge rate should be. We all know it should be more than that. We all know that victims should be getting justice far more often than they are in relation to rape and serious sexual offences, but I can’t possibly put a number on that.

Q132       James Daly: I will ask you one final question in respect of the balance to be struck, in resource terms, between offences of high harm, such as rape, and the policing of other matters, such as theft and burglary. What is your assessment of how police forces throughout the country are balancing those responsibilities?

Andy Cooke: I think it is always a difficult choice, where resource is limited, as to where resources are placed. As we know, demand has increased on policing. I recently did a spotlight report that identified that the outcome rates for the likes of burglary and robbery were far too low. The outcome rate overall for crime, the charge rate overall for crime, was 15% in 2014; it is now 5%, so there have been significant reductions in people being charged across all different types of offences. Balancing those different difficult decisions on a daily basis is for chief constables and police and crime commissioners to do. What cannot be denied is that, irrespective of what the offence is, in my view, that charge rate is too low.

Q133       James Daly: This is a pitiful state of affairs. Can I just ask you to leave us with this? What is it that you are telling the police or that you are recommending—we have talked about rape and serious sexual offending, but what are you recommending in terms of other offences? Because it’s either incompetence—there has got to be some reason for this. The public are being ill served by their police force at this moment in time. You are the inspector; there must be some recommendation you can tell me now that is going to improve the situation—or is it just a question of having better people, who know what they are doing, in place?

Andy Cooke: There are numerous issues in policing at the moment, as we are aware. One is a shortage of detectives. Secondly, there is a very inexperienced workforce and inexperienced supervision. Let me give you an example of that. In 2014, 10% of officers had under five years’ service; in 2024, that will be 38%. That experience is not as it was 10 years ago, so there are significant issues around police tradecraft, about experience and professionalism and about good supervision in relation to policing. There is also the issue of the 20,000 uplift, which is a good thing for policing and is welcomed by policing, but it brings its own challenges alongside it. We have made numerous recommendations—as I say, 43 in relation to vetting, and a significant number of recommendations in relation to rape. But there is no magic bullet for this. Policing is at a very difficult time—a time of, some would say, crisis—in relation to its ability to ensure that the public are kept as safe as we would like them to be. It is a difficult time.

Q134       Marco Longhi: I will ask two very brief questions, if I may. The first is about the 800 officers who are currently being investigated. Are they currently able to serve as police officers?

Andy Cooke: I do not know the breakdown of numbers in relation to how many are suspended and how many are on other duties or kept from the public, unfortunately.

Q135       Marco Longhi: I will be very alarmed if 800 officers are being investigated—we do not know, clearly, what the outcomes of those investigations are going to be—and if they are able to use their warrant card, if they are able to exercise their duties as police officers as we speak. That is a frightening situation to be in, so are you not able to say whether they are suspended from duty?

Andy Cooke: I am not ducking that question. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has said there are 800 officers under investigation—800 to 1,000, he actually said, under investigation. How many of those are suspended and how many of those are restricted is a matter for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. I don’t have those figures.

Chair: We will write to him and ask.

Q136       Marco Longhi: My second point is in response to questions from the Chair and, I believe, Diane Abbott. It is around your response to the point about misogyny. We had Dame Cressida Dick as the Met Commissioner here in London when a lot of these awful things were happening. Is it just a question of competence?

Andy Cooke: There is an element of a lack of experience in investigation. On occasion, there will be a lack of competence.

Q137       Marco Longhi: Are you saying that Commissioner Dick lacked experience?

Andy Cooke: No; I thought you were talking about investigations themselves, not Commissioner Dick.

Marco Longhi: Well, if this is a cultural thing and there are systemic problems, we often say that culture and systematic problems need to be addressed as a question of leadership.

Andy Cooke: Yes.

Q138       Marco Longhi: So are we saying that the leadership is inexperienced?

Andy Cooke: Leadership across policing—there are some very good leaders, undoubtedly. But leadership is intrinsic to competence and to the level of standards and values that that force holds. Yes, I agree.

Q139       Marco Longhi: So it might be experienced, but it is still incompetent.

Andy Cooke: Yes, you can still have experience and incompetence, absolutely.

Q140       Simon Fell: I would like to touch on some of the future challenges for policing. Your predecessor highlighted that economic crime is on the rise. He described fraud as having “exploded”. RUSI has recently come out with a report saying that it is an epidemic. Professor Mark Button has called it a tsunami. Those are lots of exciting words that suggest it is getting worse and worse and worse. Is it a high enough priority for the police at the moment?

Andy Cooke: No, fraud isn’t a high enough priority. I think we are all aware that 40% to 50% of crime is fraud, but only 1% of officers are engaged on dealing with fraud. I do not believe it is an issue that we will be able to investigate our way out of without significant resources being put into fraud investigation, so it is very much about how we prevent it; how we work with other parts of both the public and private sectors to prevent large parts of this fraud; and how we hold not just policing, but others, to account for what is a massive problem, as I fully accept. Are police doing enough around it? No. Will they say they do not have the resources to do much more about it? Yes. That is a matter for the Government to decide whether significant resources should be put into the investigation of fraud.

Q141       Simon Fell: What does good look like to you?

Andy Cooke: Good looks like a significantly smaller number of frauds being reported. Good looks like the organisation of those behind the fraudsters being investigated—much like serious and organised crime, and much like county lines—because a lot of the frauds that we see are of a type. Good, for me, looks like a banking and financial system that does far more than it does now to prevent these issues from happening. Good looks like those in charge of tech companies—such as your Googles, Amazons and so on, who are doing some good work around this—doing even more around this to prevent those fraudsters from being allowed to use the internet to do this.

Q142       Simon Fell: We have a wide range of organisations operating in the fraud space at the moment. The City of London police is the lead force. There are ROCUs around the country, Action Fraud, the NFIB and public-private partnerships, which you have mentioned already. But we also have a challenge, in that a lot of the legislation in this space is quite specialist and not all officers are trained up in it, understandably. To your mind, is this a training and skills issue, or is it around the structures that we currently have to operate with to deal with the problem?   

Andy Cooke: I think the conversation needs to be had around the structures to deal with this. A response officer carrying a busy workload and working three shifts is not the right person to be investigating frauds in this country; it needs someone who has a better level of expertise than that. We also need to look at the fact that a lot of the fraud issues are exceptionally complex. Are we recruiting the right people to deal with those types of frauds?

I was at a speech that Commissioner Mark Rowley gave last week, and he mentioned the fact that he would like to recruit different people to be police officers. Whether those recruited people are police officers or not police officers, we certainly need to ensure that we are getting people with different skills to investigate some of these difficult frauds as a country, because within policing, people are not necessarily recruited with that sort of mindset. We need to look at how we can better capture people who understand those systems better. It is a very difficult market because policing will not pay as much as private industry, so, after a short period, a lot of the good people that policing takes on move into private industry for far more money than they get within policing.

I know that the City of London Police are working with tech companies and financial institutions to see if they can have some sort of reciprocal approach to loaning staff either way, with different skills to assist how police investigate. But I will come back to the initial point. The scale is such that prevention, not investigation, has got to be at the forefront of this.

Q143       Simon Fell: I am minded to agree with you there. Looking at funding challenges, which are obviously quite difficult at the moment, in the US and other countries they have a model where economic crime agencies can hang on to some of the funds they catch and can reinvest them in economic crime policing. Is that something you are interested in?

Andy Cooke: Policing does keep some money as part of POCA and seized assets, et cetera—a percentage of such with the CPS and others. Yes, I think it is an incentivisation for policing to do more around fraud. We need to be careful that they do not chase the money as opposed to chasing the biggest risks and threats in their force areas, in the NCA or in the ROCUs.

Q144       Paula Barker: Morning, Mr Cooke. You were talking about how, in 2014, 10% of officers had under five years’ experience, and you have said that by 2023-24 that will be around 38%. Given what you said about lack of experience around standards and values, what impact do you believe this inexperience in the force is having on the general public?

Andy Cooke: I think that inexperience does have an impact when you have such a young workforce. It is young and inexperienced at times now. Certainly with PEQF and the police degree, a lot of 18-year-olds are joining to go through that. I think it does have an impact. What it requires is good supervision on top of that and very strong standards and values implemented by chiefs and commissioners to ensure that people are properly trained in the role, and trained to have the ethics, values and standards drilled into them from day one.

We look across the country and see very good forces doing very good work. I will raise the issue of Humberside—the highest grades ever in an inspectorate inspection—where we have seen what can be done from a force that in 2017 was engaged, to a force that is now the best performing in the country. For me that is all about the culture that has been instilled, the standards that have been instilled and the leadership that has been shown throughout the organisation. Others need to replicate similarly.

Q145       Paula Barker: Why is that model of good practice not being replicated across the country?

Andy Cooke: That is part of the role of the inspectorate, and we are highlighting the good work that is being done by Humberside to other forces. There are other good forces as well that are doing well. We have a 43-force approach that is led by 43 different chief constables, and 43 different PCCs work with those chief constables. Together with the College of Policing, we need to ensure that that good practice is drilled home. Since I became the chief inspector, we are focusing a lot more on the good practice that policing needs to share and disseminate better, working very much with the college to do so.

Q146       Paula Barker: Do you think that police officers should have, or should work towards, a degree? Would that have any impact?

Andy Cooke: I don’t think every officer needs a degree. Some of the best officers I have worked with did not have degrees. Police officers need high standards, good values, common sense, bravery and compassion. They do not necessarily need a degree on the back of it. It would be nice for them to have a degree, but on occasions it stops other good people who might consider a career in policing if a degree is the only route. I am pleased that that dual route to joining the police is still open.

Q147       Paula Barker: I am sorry to labour the point, but I want to go back to the lack of experience. I agree with you about the degree. You can have good standards, good values, common sense, etc. but given the under-resourcing of police forces— We have lost police officers over the years. I know there has been an increase, but the net figures have not quite equalised. What concerns me is that we will have around 38% of police officers with under five years come next year. How do we embed those good practices, those cultures? What work is being undertaken? I accept what you are saying about Humberside and models of good practice, but I haven’t heard anything about what is being done to embed those good practices and those specific cultures across the country. That concerns me. What is being done, or what should be done?

Andy Cooke: I think our role is to ensure that NPCC and the College of Policing are doing the right things to embed those cultures. That is why we inspect in relation to what they are seeking to achieve. If we look at VAWG, Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth is doing an awful lot of good work in relation to ensuring that the police approach to VAWG is better than it was. The police race action plan is being progressed by the NPCC.

What is important from an inspectorate perspective is that what the police say they are going to do to improve these issues they are actually doing, which is why—to bring us back to the vetting inspections, which we discussed—we will be going back in shortly to ensure that policing is progressing those in a timely manner because it needs to. If it is not, we will further report on that in relation to it. That will identify chief constables who maybe are not pushing these issues as strongly as they should be, but we need to ensure that good practice is disseminated.

We also need to ensure as an inspectorate that where we believe forces are failing, or chief constables are failing, in these respects, we bring that to the public’s attention because that is our role.

Q148       Paula Barker: There is a recommendation from the Police Foundation’s strategic review that a licence to practise for police officers should be reviewed every five years. What is your view on that?

Andy Cooke: I need to see more detail around the mechanics of it. I know other professions have a licence to practise, quite rightly. Police officer powers are such, and police have such additional powers in respect of the rest of society, that, instinctively, I think it might well be a good idea—that police officers should be regularly tested, that there should be regular checks that the vetting has been completed in relation to them, and that the whole licence to practise could be extended to more than just a sort of annual appraisal that takes half an hour and doesn’t necessarily do anything.

One of the issues that we need to be aware of is that I have not looked at how successful that has been in other professions. I am aware that in nursing, medicine and others, it is part of what they do. Instinctively, I think it’s a good idea, but I need to see the detail.

Q149       Paula Barker: You have touched on nursing and professional standards. Is there any room for policing to adopt a model that would be similar to the NHS where officers on the frontline would refer to specialist teams of colleagues in specific areas? Is there any room for that? What are your views?

Andy Cooke: There are plenty of specialist teams around policing that support those response officers. Because policing is so complex, omnicompetence is a bit of a thing of the past. I am swinging a blue lamp here, but when I was a young bobby, it was burglary, theft, car crime, domestic violence. The complexity now for police officers is immense. We all know how much police time is spent dealing with mental health, which it shouldn’t be. I would want mental health professionals to deal with one of my family who was in crisis. It should be someone else doing that and we can’t expect police officers to be experts on every single thing they do.

That specialism is really important, and where we are seeing great successes with the likes of rape and similar offences is when very specialised teams are dealing with them. So yes, there needs to be a 24/7 999 response, but we can’t expect omnicompetence and officers need access to specialists at an early stage in relation either to advice or to taking on the role with regard to what they are doing.

Q150       Paula Barker: Do we have the skills and competence for officers to be able to deliver all those things? If not, what can we do to ensure that happens?

Andy Cooke: I don’t think officers these days can be an expert in everything they deal with in response.

Q151       Paula Barker: No, I mean to deal with specialist areas.

Andy Cooke: Oh, specialist areas—yes. Don’t get me wrong, there are things like digital forensics on which not enough work has been done; there are not enough specialists dealing in that part of business. There are difficulties at times getting specially trained sexual offence officers 24/7 who are up to date with what is going on. We have noticed that in different forces. That needs to be sorted out as soon as possible, obviously. Overall, the ability to go to a specialist to deal with a complex problem is there. Whether it is quick enough is a different matter.

Q152       Chair: Why do you think that not all police forces have specialist sexual assault officers and teams? That is one of the recommendations that this Committee made in our report. I still do not understand why some forces don’t just say, “This is a no-brainer. We should have this.”

Andy Cooke: Every force has specially trained sexual offence officers; not every force has special unit for investigating rape and sexual offences. Absolutely, I agree with you: it is the right thing to do.

Q153       Chair: But you can’t do anything about making them establish these units?

Andy Cooke: We are an inspectorate. We make recommendations, but I can’t force chief constables to do anything; they have operational independence.

Chair: When everybody accepts that this is the way forward, Operation Soteria says this is the way forward, and previous Home Secretaries have said that this should happen, it just seems bizarre that police forces don’t have these units.

Q154       Tim Loughton: Which is the best constabulary in the country at the moment, and which is the worst?

Andy Cooke: The highest graded is Humberside police—six outstandings from the nine categories. The force that has been in engagement and special measures for the longest is Cleveland, and it has been for some time. There is a new chief constable in place there, who is doing some good work in drawing the team together, and we are seeing some slow improvements in relation to that force. As you know, there are six forces currently in enhanced engagement with the inspectorate. That is not because they are failing throughout the force; it is because there are certain issues that we are concerned about in relation to the way they are delivering their business.

Q155       Tim Loughton: So why is Humberside the best and Cleveland the worst?

Andy Cooke: There are numerous reasons in relation to Cleveland. It has had too many chief constables over a short period of time. There has been a long history in relation to corruption with a small c, both public service and within that police force. It is a small constabulary that is underfunded. It has metropolitan problems, but basically a rural budget to support that. It has the highest firearms crime rate in the country and one of the highest violence rates. It is an area of significant deprivation, so it has more mental health issues and more people below the poverty line. There are a number of things that come together to make that a difficult force. In addition, it is not an attractive force.

Q156       Tim Loughton: So you are saying that it is almost inevitable? Because of the nature of the territory, it is inevitable that it is always going to be a struggling force.

Andy Cooke: It is not inevitable. It is under-resourced and underfunded, in my view. Because of its location, it is not the No. 1 promotion that police officers might aspire to, so it struggles to recruit senior officers. There are a number of reasons for that.

Why Humberside? It has very good processes, very good systems and very good leadership. It is a force that is totally on track with what the chief constable wants them to do. It is a force that has been innovative in relation to its approach to a number of parts of business—for example, on mental health. The Right Person, Right Care approach is being adopted by the rest of the country as we speak. That is in relation to ensuring that police officers are not tied up for significant periods of time dealing with mental health issues or NHS issues. They can get back to doing what they should be doing and what the public expect them to do. The force is well led throughout and resourced sufficiently—although I am sure the chief would ask for more resources—and it is providing a good service to the public of Humberside.

Q157       Tim Loughton: I represent the other end of the country, although my family come from Humberside originally. What surprised me is that there is not a lot of difference between Humberside and Cleveland—I defer to the Chair, who represents one of those seats—in terms of some of the factors you have given to explain why Cleveland is a basket case, including the environmental, poverty and social factors. There is no excuse for Cleveland to be at the bottom and Humberside to be at the top, in terms of what they are dealing with. Those are excuses, aren’t they? Cleveland is a dud force and Humberside is a good force because of the way they approach policing. It is not what they have to deal with—the people they have to deal with and the social circumstances they have to deal with—because there are many other forces up and down the country who are doing a really good job in challenging areas. They, frankly, do not use as an excuse, “We have got a challenging clientele that we have to look after.”

I am more interested, Mr Cooke, in why, of their own making, the police are failing in Cleveland and succeeding in Humberside. You have mentioned leadership and continuity of leadership is clearly a key factor. What is it going to take, and what is your role as the inspectorate, to turn Cleveland into a Humberside?

Andy Cooke: It is a very good question. I will answer it by saying that there is not one reason why Cleveland is failing. There are a number of reasons. That leadership is exceptionally important. We have seen what good leadership can do, in Humberside. The problems in Humberside and Cleveland are similar. The resourcing in Humberside is more than Cleveland. We need to ensure that the right people are encouraged to go and work in Cleveland.

There are an awful lot of good police officers at all levels working in Cleveland at the moment, and doing a good job, despite the issues that they face. The new chief constable will do all he can to improve that force and the Home Office are currently working with Cleveland to identify if there is a solution to either resourcing or funding that they can come to.

The whole of the policing sector, including the College of Policing and the NPCC, is supporting Cleveland. The progress there has been very slow. As I mentioned, I think it is seven chief constables over a very short period of time. Obviously, the lack of continuity for the staff is a real issue. Cleveland does need to get better, undoubtedly. Will it reach a Humberside level of good? Not without further resourcing, in my view.

Q158       Tim Loughton: I am interested in what you think your role in all this is. When I was Children’s Minister, I was responsible for children’s services departments, which were inspected by Ofsted, and some of them would fail, and some would be good or outstanding or whatever. One of the approaches we took was where we had outstanding authorities, we would suggest they seconded some of their officers, and in some cases did mentoring between political leadership as well, to those failing authorities, to find out what they were doing well there and how that might be applied to the failing authority. What happens for police constabularies? Do you have a role as the inspector to say, “You need to set up some sort of mentoring partnership programme,” so that the stardust of Humberside can rub off on Cleveland or whatever it might be?

Andy Cooke: Mr Loughton, we have done all of that. I have no power to second officers anywhere across the country. Each police force is independent. The National Police Chiefs’ Council can’t make a senior officer move to a different constabulary. Maybe that is what should be able to happen. I might happen to agree with you—I think that we should be parachuting good people into some of the areas that are struggling—but I have no powers to do so. I have suggested that previously. I have worked closely with the Home Office in relation to it, and solutions for this.

Q159       Tim Loughton: Have you made that recommendation in one of your annual reports?

Andy Cooke: No. I haven’t actually completed an annual report yet.

Q160       Tim Loughton: Okay. Will you make that recommendation in your next annual report?

Andy Cooke: As part of my annual report, I will be reporting on what we need to do to improve those forces who are currently in Engage and who are not necessarily in a position to aspire to adequate, good or outstanding.

Q161       Tim Loughton: Will you suggest this as a proposal, given that it sounds as if you agree with that?

Andy Cooke: I think the inspectorate should have more power in relation to what it can do. I think there should be the opportunity for police officers to be moved to different parts of the country where the requirement is or, even, that there should be some consideration in relation to what we do with local authorities, with a sort of commissionership approach on occasion, if that is required. But we can’t allow forces like Cleveland to be engaged, I think it is for five years now. That is too long.

Tim Loughton: I think that’s a yes.

Chair: You will consider it.

Andy Cooke: I will certainly consider it, yes. It is a conversation that I have had previously.

Q162       Chair: If I recall, though, the chief constable of Humberside did go off to Cleveland for a period of time. I don’t know if that was just a relationship between the two forces.

Andy Cooke: It was the relationship between the two forces. He basically said, “Yes, I will go for a short period of time, till the new chief is in place.” Then he was responsible for being in charge of two forces.

Chair: That was just them deciding to do that.

Andy Cooke: He did that out of goodness of heart, as opposed to anything else.

Chair: We have a lot of goodness of heart in the Humberside area.

Andy Cooke: You do, and you have a very good police force as well.

Chair: Yes; considering where it has come from and where it is today, it has made remarkable progress. I should pay tribute to the chief constable.

Q163       Carolyn Harris: I want to follow on from the Cleveland conversation. When you talked about it, you made it sound like the graveyard of police ambition. How much influence would the PCC have on the structure and encouraging a change, because they are a constant?

Andy Cooke: The current PCC is doing his best in relation to attracting people in. One of the key issues is that there is no financial incentive. Under the police regulations, they cannot pay someone more because it is a really difficult place to work. It is the same wherever you work. For an assistant chief constable, basically, you are on the same rate of pay unless you get London allowance. It is more attractive for many people to work in a force that is not as challenging as Cleveland, so they do struggle to attract people in. I would not call it a graveyard, just for clarity, but it is a significantly difficult policing environment at the moment.

Chair: Marco Longhi, are there any questions you would like to ask? We are just about to finish at quarter to.

Q164       Marco Longhi: Yes, I want to bottom out a bit more the whole issue around behaviour and culture. Your recent inspection on vetting and culture found that women were fearful of reporting colleagues, with officers and staff who experienced prejudicial or improper behaviour saying that this was “rarely challenged”. What I find is also very rarely challenged is when women who have been abused are not getting the service that they should be getting from the police force, and when they do come forward, they are the ones that are made to feel guilty. When they come to a force that is meant to be supporting them, they inevitably find themselves in even more difficult situations. What is it that needs to change, and how confident are you that things will change?

Andy Cooke: Internally, female officers coming forward need to be reassured that senior officers will take the right action in relation to their complaints. As we have said previously, on our vetting inspection, we did see that not all the decisions that had been made in relation to misconduct were satisfactory, so there needs to be a far stronger approach to supporting both female officers and staff internally in relation to this.

Externally, I agree with you. Victims should always be the priority for policing. Keeping victims informed and ensuring that the right people with the right skills and the right compassion are looking after these individuals is exceptionally important.

Q165       Marco Longhi: We all know what needs to happen; we all know what should happen. You are basically saying, “Yes, you’re right. This shouldn’t happen, and this should change.” But my question is: what needs to happen for that change in behaviour to take place, and how confident are you in that happening? We know what needs to happen, but how will it happen and how confident are you?

Andy Cooke: We need to continue to inspect police forces to ensure that chief constables and senior officers are doing the right things to ensure that culture changes; that people are taken seriously; and that the right systems are in place right across the country in relation to identifying those people, both internally and externally, who are committing these offences against colleagues or members of the public. We will continue to do that, as an inspectorate. Am I confident it will improve? Yes, I am confident it will improve. We need to ensure, as an inspectorate, that we are doing all we can, together with others across the policing system, to make sure that that improvement is quick and does not take years and years.

Q166       Chair: Can I ask you a couple of very quick questions? There seems to be some speculation in the press about whether the officers who were involved in the vetting of David Carrick, or who saw events during his career at the Metropolitan police and did not report them—those who allowed the vetting process to go through and allowed him to carry on—should be brought to task. What do you think about that?

Andy Cooke: Without knowing the exact details, it would be really difficult to comment on that. That is a matter for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. As I say, without knowing more about the exact situations in relation to what, on those nine occasions, brought this individual to light, it would be wrong for me to comment.

Q167       Chair: But you think it is something that should be looked at.

Andy Cooke: There are those who commit offences and those who allow others to commit offences knowingly. I have no doubt that this will be part of what Lady Angiolini looks at as part of the review that she will do in relation to this.

Q168       Chair: Okay. I also want to ask you about the inexperience of the police service going forward. You talked about the quite striking numbers—over 30%—of people with less than five years’ service. How did we manage to get ourselves into this position? We seem to have lost so much experience and knowledge within the police, and we are ending up with a very large chunk of officers with limited experience. How have we ended up in this position?

Andy Cooke: This started in 2010, with austerity and the significant reduction in police officer numbers. Trying now to get back to those police officer numbers is, obviously, an issue. I would add that police officers—police constables—have basically had a 20% pay cut in real terms since 2010. So policing is not a vastly attractive proposition for a lot of people, particularly in areas where there is a high cost of living. Add on to that the fact that the respect that people have for policing has diminished over the last few years, and add on that the fact that, in private industry, people are paying more. For instance, train drivers get significantly more than police constables, and that has become a favoured profession for a number of Metropolitan police officers.

It is a very difficult time to recruit and retain police officers of a sufficient standard to ensure that the public are kept safe. That is an issue for all of us across the system. It is an issue for Government. We need to pay very close attention to this. More experienced officers are leaving, not just younger officers. The retention of young and senior officers is a concern. It is something we should all be concerned about.

Q169       Chair: When I was younger, policing was seen as a career that you did for 30 years—that was what you were going to spend your life doing. Is that not how it is for people now?

Andy Cooke: No, but even on that point, when I joined the police I did not do it because I knew that in 30 years I would get a pension. A lot of police officers join because they feel they have a vocation for policing: they want to make a difference for the public and to be public servants. But pension arrangements have changed anyway. If you decide you are going to join as a police officer, it is a totally different pension arrangement now. At the moment, given the extent of confidence and trust in policing, why would you want to be a police officer? To be a police officer, you have to have a real vocation to be a police officer—particularly, as I have mentioned, given the other issues that go alongside that. That concerns me greatly, because I want the best possible people protecting not just my family but families across England and Wales.

Chair: Thank you very much for appearing before us today. I look forward to the next time you are in front of us. We will see what happens with policing and the very sad situation that it is currently in. Let’s hope there is improvement. Thank you very much for your time this morning.

Examination of witnesses

Witnesses: Steve Hartshorn and Harvi Khatkar.

Q170       Chair: Good morning. This is our second panel. Will you introduce yourselves to the Committee?

Steve Hartshorn: Good morning. I am Steve Hartshorn. I am currently the chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales.

Harvi Khatkar: Good morning. I am Harvi Khatkar, the vice-president of the Police Superintendents Association.

Q171       Chair: Thank you—you are very welcome. I think you were sitting at the back of the room during the first session with the chief inspector. I would like to start by asking both of you about the current situation in policing and, obviously, the dreadful news this week about David Carrick, a serving Metropolitan police officer until just yesterday. My view is that we have to recognise that the police service is institutionally sexist. What is your view on the situation as you see it?

Harvi Khatkar: I guess my starting point is that as a police officer, to hear what has happened this week is horrific, and it makes me feel sick, if I am being honest. I have 29 years’ service in policing, and I feel that we have let the victims down. I am really sorry that as a service we have done that. I do not think there is any police officer who would not find what has happened abhorrent, and we really need to get to the bottom of this and make sure that we root out any officer who has those kinds of views and who commits those horrific crimes.

You asked the question, “Do we think it is institutionally sexist as a service?” Based on my level of service, I think there is an issue in policing, and it is not necessarily confined just to the Metropolitan police. We also have to recognise that it is not restricted to certain ranks—we definitely have to understand that. My view is that we have a number of really good officers at every level, who come to work every day—as Mr Cooke referred to—and who want to do a good job for their communities and their fellow colleagues who they work with. They want to stand up and make sure that when victims and witnesses, both internally and from communities, report this, they are able to be supported and that we root them out.

Q172       Chair: I think we all accept that there are many police officers who are doing a very good job keeping us all safe. Are the problems systematic? Is it the system that is failing, rather than individuals, and, wrapped around that, the culture?

Harvi Khatkar: My view is that there are two areas in relation to this. The first is around the culture. We need to ensure that we create that psychological safety for people to be able to come forward and, certainly from an internal perspective, that we allow and listen to people’s lived experiences. Based on those lived experiences, we are looking at our systems and processes to see whether they are fit for purpose to allow people to come forward. We then need to look at a whole-system review of all our processes. We talked earlier about recruitment, selection, the vetting process and misconduct, and we need to ensure that all of those are robust and that people who are investigating those areas of business and crimes have the right training.

We also need to be timely, because it is unacceptable that people have to wait a significant amount of time, particularly for victims from the community who are coming forward, and to have the right processes and support. We need to ensure that we have the right training, that our officers are skilled and show that empathy, that victims are believed, and that we carry out a thorough investigation and our internal investigations are robust. Also—I think Sir Mark Rowley referred to this in a previous Committee session—we need to ensure that we do not have biases in our decision making.

Q173       Chair: And we do at the moment?

Harvi Khatkar: I think Sir Mark Rowley said that there have been instances—obviously he makes reference to the Metropolitan police—where some of those have disproportionately impacted on individuals.

Q174       Chair: Are you talking about leniency within misconduct hearings—that certain officers would be treated more leniently than others?

Harvi Khatkar: I think it is about consistency. We need to make sure that all decision making is robust and transparent, and that there is clear rationale for why decisions have been made. But equally, we should ensure that sanctions, as you referred to them, are transparent and proportionate and that there is consistency across all forces. That should not be particular to one force—it needs to be across all 43 forces.

Steve Hartshorn: If I may, I will echo the sentiment from Harvi and offer an apology not only to the victims but to the wider public for the loss of confidence in policing. That is on behalf of every right-thinking, decent police officer who is appalled by recent events. I feel it is incumbent on me to get that on the record now, because we are absolutely disgusted by what has happened. Certainly, in the Police Federation of England and Wales we will be pushing for the changes that are needed to try to rectify that and get back the confidence that is so definitely needed by yourselves and the wider public.

Q175       Chair: What are those changes?

Steve Hartshorn: Initially, we have to look at leadership. As has been commented on, leadership starts at the top. We talk about culture and there does need to be cultural change. There needs to be a proper victim-led approach, so that when somebody comes forward—as a police officer but also as a member of the public—they are supported properly.

If we look at public crime, the difference is that a victim may report a crime and may not know, and we will have to work with that person, whereas if you report an offence against a colleague, that is in the same environment, so there might be elements of having to work together on the same team. That causes immense pressures—probably more so in rural areas, but it is not alien to metropolitan environments, because policing is a team. It is a family in itself, and people will make comments. It is incredibly difficult—I know from dealing with police officers who come to me for representation and support—to stand up and be counted. Quite often, they say, “I just want this to go away and to stop.” Obviously, we then want to make sure that that behaviour is stopped properly.

Part of the issue that we are trying to find and do away with is that whenever we take a chief constable to an employment tribunal, we do not want any COT3s or a non-disclosure order to be imposed. We want it to be an open and transparent process, so that if we have won the case, the officer we represent is okay with having their name out there. They can say, “This is the type of behaviour that we reported. We have challenged it. We have, sadly, had to take it to an employment tribunal. We have won.” That is the kind of culture that we need to stop, because if you shine a light on this behaviour, it will stop. There should be no hiding place whatsoever.

This is more about the victim-led approach, and for police officers in particular to say, “Come forward, challenge it and be supported properly.” Can we assist them with moving to a different team or a different location? It is also about making sure that the perpetrators are dealt with properly. You have to be fair within the process, because you can have vexatious allegations. It is about safeguarding the process for everybody, but when you get patterns of behaviour and two or three people have said the same thing—and you can prove that they are significantly independent—that would raise alarm bells for me. So you can perhaps do more that way, bearing in mind the victim.

Q176       Chair: Just to go back to non-disclosure agreements, those are where you are not allowed to say what has happened. We have had that around women who settle claims in employment tribunals around sexual harassment, and then nobody knows. Are you saying that the police use non-disclosure agreements to prevent what has gone on from being public, in terms of allegations around poor behaviour, assault and sexual harassment?

Steve Hartshorn: They use them for a variety of reasons. It is probably more prevalent in the private sector. If you take policing, because you report an allegation—again, if it is a chief constable—you have to remain in their employment, normally, to continue. That puts significant pressure on our members—to have to take a chief constable to court. There are internal pressures—“Why are you saying that? Why are you doing it? What do you want to rock the boat for?”—whereas in the private sector, you take an employer to court because you have left and you are not happy, so you can walk away from it.

If they are imposed, as a starting point, we decided late last year that we did not want COT3s—that is the term from the employment tribunal service—so we can do away with them, as long as the victim is happy, because they have to put their name to that. There is then the potential stigma, for want of a better word. You have taken your chief to task over something that people might say is not appropriate, but the lived experience of the victim is huge. To challenge a police service and to take it to task is an immense undertaking for anybody. It takes a lot for a victim of serious sexual assault to go to court, knowing the way that barristers potentially treat them, in doing their job, to highlight the deficiencies in their evidence. Equally, it is difficult for a police officer at an ET to take their chief to court knowing that if they win, they remain in their employment. What does that look like? Is there secondary discrimination?

We did some press work a while ago. I said, “COT3s are in existence. These non-disclosure orders are prevalent in the industry—in policing.” An unnamed NPCC spokesman said, “No they are not.” They are. We have made an FOI to find out the scale of them, so that we can understand it in a far better way to be able to say, “Look, stop. We don’t need them.” We need to call out the inappropriate actions and behaviours of other people, be it at the same rank as me or higher officers, to see what the culture looks like. Once we understand that, we can deal with it.

Q177       Paula Barker: Ms Khatkar, you have a very impressive biography: the first female superintendent, the tactical firearms commander and the public order bronze commander in your force, and you are a woman of colour. Given what we have heard about the potential for institutional sexism—I agree with the Chair that there is, sadly, institutional sexism in the police—what has your experience been? I think you said that you have 29 years’ experience; what has your experience as a woman been in the police force over those 29 years?

Harvi Khatkar: Thank you, first of all, for commenting on my bio. I am sad to say that I have experienced sexism in my 29 years, but there have also been some positive steps towards trying to remove that. I absolutely get that we are still not there and that there is a long way to go. This goes back to what I said at the start: we absolutely need to create that psychological safety to enable women to come forward and feel, certainly internally, that they can make those statements and allegations and that they will be listened to. That is so important.

Being the first in so many roles, I think there is much pressure for role modelling, which is important as well—particularly as a senior leader—to ensure that we create that and increase our colleagues’ cultural competence with knowledge and awareness. Sometimes, it is so easy for us not necessarily to empathise fully with and understand some of the challenges that particularly under-represented groups may face if we are not from that group. That is not to say that we do not have empathy, but it can or may become more difficult.

It is about having courage, though I recognise that it is sometimes far easier for someone who has rank to stand up and make their voice heard. We have to recognise that because we are in a culture in which there is a hierarchy, so it has been positive to hear some of the things that have come from Sir Mark Rowley, such as the confidential hotline that people can go to.

We have to look at various methods for people to come forward having, as I say, listened to lived experiences. We have to have the right systems and processes to enable issues to be investigated, whether misconduct or a criminal matter. There also needs to be that ongoing support through the criminal justice system. All those are equally important.

Q178       Paula Barker: Towards the end of the first session, you will have heard about sharing good practice. Obviously, there is no compulsion for officers to move across forces to share that good practice, but given how impressive your CV is, are you called on to share good practice and to support or mentor women in the forces? How can that be widely shared? There is only one of you. How can we share the good practice a bit more?

Harvi Khatkar: There are a number of fellow colleagues in the service and a number of coaching and mentoring schemes. As an association, we run the Future Supers programme, which is aimed at under-represented groups at inspector and chief inspector rank, because we recognise that we are the pipeline to the chief officer group. We know that a lot more still needs to be done to get true diversity among all ranks, particularly at senior officer level. That is happening, and it happens though working with the college.

As an association, we work closely with colleagues at the NPCC and the College of Policing, with my colleague here, Steve, and with Mr Cooke’s department to make sure that those areas of good practice are promulgated among all forces. However, I know from our membership that sometimes there is a lack of consistency, and we definitely need to get better at that in policing. The college sets the standards and HMIC inspects against those standards and outcomes, so there should be consistency among all forces.

Q179       Tim Loughton: I will come on to policing priorities in a minute, but can I come back to the comment you made just now, Mr Hartshorn, about the Carrick situation? You said, quite rightly, that all right-minded police officers are disgusted and outraged by the revelations. The trouble is that they went on in this case for 17 years. There was a culture of cover-up, given his nickname and everything else that seemed to go about him. Nobody seems to have blown the whistle, or if they did then nobody took it seriously, and his colleagues were content to continue to work with somebody of that bad character, as it now turns out. As I raised yesterday with the Home Secretary, I am concerned not so much about this individual and the horrendous things he has done, but about the people around him who allowed that to continue. Where is the mindset problem that needs to be addressed, and how are your members proactively addressing it?

Steve Hartshorn: First, if I take the investigation, I don’t know the full details of who or how many people may or may not have reported his actions in the past. I am keen to understand it; I would love to see the detailed reports that have gone on so far. In terms of asking my members what they can do, we encourage them to stand up to stick to police codes of conduct: if you see inappropriate behaviour, it is incumbent on you to report it immediately. It is unequivocal; that is what it says. The first action is to go to a supervisor to document it. Once you have done that, you have fulfilled your duty. However, if you see it, you should continue to report it. The difficulty is that once you report something, you are not always kept in the loop in the investigation. You might say something now, it gets reported on and you will be forgotten about for maybe six to 12 months because they are progressing the investigation. They might not come back to you; they might be asking other colleagues in other areas to see what that is like.

It comes down to supervision. If you know something inappropriate is taking place, then it needs to be dealt with immediately; you can’t let it continue. We do have a problem with supervision in the police service as a whole. We have already talked about the attrition rates. In my opinion, we don’t have a high level of supervision. If you look at standard, response policing compared with specialist policing, on the firearms teams you have a higher level of supervision to make sure that you conduct yourself properly and professionally. Because of the level of responsibility, you have proper oversight. If you look at some teams now, you might have 20 or 30 PCs with just one sergeant on the team. That is not good enough.

We need proper, effective supervision so that someone—at any point—can call out inappropriate behaviour, feel supported by their supervisor, and have the support of their team to know they have done the right thing. I don’t think that is always in place. Looking at the entry requirements to come into policing now, with the degree route, you would hope that if a higher-qualified, higher-educated person came in, they would feel more empowered to deal with that. That doesn’t appear to be the case at the moment. I am keen to see what more is being done on ethics and morality when it comes to policing. It is about encouraging the environment where people can actually step forward and make the allegations.

Q180       Tim Loughton: That all sounds fine, but it is not working in practice. Clearly, it didn’t work in practice here, hence me raising the whistleblowing processes and how well they work with Mr Cooke. It was slightly concerning that he wasn’t really aware of how they work and whether they work effectively. Are you confident that the whistleblowing systems within constabularies are sufficient, effective and actually working? If not, why not? What needs to be done?

Steve Hartshorn: I have concerns about the whistleblowing process in itself, because if you get to the stage of whistleblowing, it is making a protected legal disclosure. Technically, you can’t go, “I’m not happy,” and go out to the press or your local MP. You are supposed to follow a staged approach to make that complaint known. It might be that some forces have a low incidence of whistleblowing because they have a really good pre-whistleblowing policy where people feel they can go and report something effectively to a supervisor, and it is then progressed by professional standards. There might not be those policies in some forces.

When people come forward to say what they want to say, as a federation rep I need to tell them that if it has not been listened to, then we need to follow the process legally to get there in order to protect them and their status. From what I know, every force has a whistleblowing policy. I have not done a compare and contrast across the country to see how effective they are. I would like to see some figures to understand. I think you mentioned it was 2% in one force and higher in another force. I would like to understand the prevalence of complaints set against the whistleblowing policy, to see whether they have been dealt with effectively and whether they have lower complaints in certain aspects of misconduct compared with others.

Q181       Tim Loughton: Has the federation done any work on this? Do you think it is something the federation should be looking at more closely?

Steve Hartshorn: It is something I will take back to my board, and we will ask to look at whistleblowing. We have a very effective equality board within the Police Federation of England and Wales, and it is something we can look at. Part of the work we did around the non-disclosure orders came from the equality board.

Q182       Tim Loughton: I think it would be useful if there was much more transparency around where there appear to be disparities. If you have an effective complaints process—let us look at some of the numbers there—but you have few complaints being made and few whistleblowing events taking place, clearly there is a problem.

Steve Hartshorn: There is. Internally, we used to have what is called a grievance procedure, which is popularly known as a fairness at work process, where you make a complaint about somebody. Recent reports from the last two to three years have said that most internal fairness at work processes or grievance procedures are not effective, because it is akin to mediation—you make a complaint, and someone says, “That’s not quite right. Let’s not go there.” It’s leaving victims feeling very dissatisfied. They then become disillusioned, and at that point, they may go through the whistleblowing process.

Q183       Tim Loughton: That is the victims; I am talking about staff on staff.

Chief Superintendent, I want to ask you a general question. I took my local police commissioner around one of my village centres last Friday where we have had a particularly worrying string of antisocial behaviour—knifings and so on—and deliberately exposed her to the punters on the street. The most consistent thing that came up was people saying, “I’ve reported such and such, but nothing’s happened,” or, “I just don’t bother to report it because the police don’t respond.”

There are some cases, which I have forwarded to the police, where there has been some very serious violence, and it is all on CCTV cameras—they can identify the people—but the police have come back to say, “I’m afraid we can’t take any further action. We haven’t got the resources.” Why not, when it is as simple as that? What has changed over recent years? We can say “numbers”, but numbers are going back up. This is a case—and it is not isolated—of a clear crime that has been committed, it is on record, and there is a good chance of identifying the people, but the police say they are not taking any further action. That would not have happened five or 10 years ago, would it?

Harvi Khatkar: It is disappointing when you share that experience. There would be an expectation that police would attend incidents. We have a grading system that is based on threat, risk and harm. Where a crime is committed and we have evidential lines of inquiry, there would be an expectation that police officers would pursue those lines of inquiry. Obviously, I cannot speak for that specific case, but I know that demand within policing—Mr Cooke also referred to it—in non-crime areas has had a significant impact on policing resources, and every force has to prioritise all the incidents that are being reported to them.

Q184       Tim Loughton: What are those non-crime pressures that are taking away police time from dealing with clear crime, as it were?

Harvi Khatkar: We know from our membership that a significant amount of time is spent dealing with mental health issues. That could be the use of custody as a place of safety, which we would all probably agree is not the best place for someone who is in crisis. There are those situations, but we are also having to support some other public sector agencies that have also experienced austerity and had resourcing issues and implications.

Q185       Tim Loughton: Such as?

Harvi Khatkar: In terms of a lack of resourcing.

Q186       Tim Loughton: But who are you supporting? What other people’s jobs are you having to do now as well?

Harvi Khatkar: We know from our members that some forces are being asked to support the NHS, in terms of the ambulance service—as police officers, we are not trained as paramedics—and the wait for ambulances in certain areas. I am not saying that it is across every force area, but those are challenges that our members provide information to us about. Equally, it is social services, in terms of issues around young people and within the mental health system.

Q187       Tim Loughton: The Committee absolutely gets the mental health pressures and the waste of resources when your officers take somebody to A&E who, because of a mental illness, has created a problem. Two of them effectively having to sit there in A&E and wait all that time until that person gets treated is a huge waste of resources when they are needed out on the street. We absolutely get that.

The criticism is that you seem to be doing an awful lot of other stuff on minor stuff, certainly around what can be construed as hate speech, which is important, but where it might be said that there is less of an immediate threat. Do you think that you are spending too much time doing that, rather than attending the scene of a physical crime that has happened, of which I have just given some examples? Are there things that you should be doing less of in order to do more of what people traditionally see the police as being there to do?

Harvi Khatkar: It goes back to the fact that, certainly in the service, we probably require that clarity of mission, because there are so many things that the police are now doing that, traditionally, they did not deploy to. We need that clarity of mission. We also know that the police are often seen as the last resort, in terms of the service that they provide. We need that clarity, and it would be welcome across all public sector organisations, so that we can work towards a shared common goal, which would result in better outcomes for all public services.

We also welcome—I think Dr Rick Muir refers to this—support from the Government, certainly, for some of those, with private industry. I would use the examples of vehicle crime, where they can mitigate against theft, and the business crime area itself. Obviously, the police will always attend incidents where there are issues or instances, as you referred to, where people are using violence, because that is the role of the police, but we would certainly welcome that clarity of mission.

Q188       Tim Loughton: So, clarity of mission and purpose. We took the example with the Met Commissioner, when he was here a few weeks ago, of the Just Stop Oil protesters. There is widespread frustration that more is not being done to physically remove them sooner from causing misery to people who are trying to go about their daily lives. The Home Secretary has provided some clarity of mission on that, and changes to make it clear where the police should be moving them. As a result of that, do you think that we will see more Just Stop Oil protesters—or those types of protesters—causing less disruption because the police will move in and remove them much more quickly?

Harvi Khatkar: I do not think I can anticipate whether we will see more or fewer protests. That is probably not something I can really answer.

Q189       Tim Loughton: No, but I am concerned with whether you and your colleagues will deal with the protests that we will see—whether there are more or fewer of them—rather more effectively as a result of what the Home Secretary has said.

Harvi Khatkar: It is important to recognise that, in all incidents of protests, we have to balance the human rights for people to have that freedom of expression with the role of the police in protecting communities and preventing serious disruption, whether that is to local communities or, in the example that you referred to, the transport network and the disruption to other businesses. We have to balance all those needs when we are dealing with those incidents and be proportionate in our response.

Q190       Tim Loughton: So you do not think the Home Secretary saying the grounds on which the police should be removing those demonstrations, which are disproportionate and causing huge chaos to other people, will make any difference to the way that the police deal with Just Stop Oil-type protests in the future?

Harvi Khatkar: I do not think I am necessarily saying that. I am saying that I recognise the Home Secretary has given additional powers to the police to deal with them more robustly, but it would be very difficult. As I say, we still have to apply the test of proportionality in all our dealings.

Q191       Tim Loughton: I understand that, but Mark Rowley specifically said that the real problem with the protesters was the lack of—this is not the phrase he used, but your phrase—clarity of purpose. The Home Secretary has now provided much greater clarity of purpose. I would have expected the police to respond, “Thank you. That means we can now deal more effectively and speedily, where it is appropriate to do so, with those protesters that we have not been able to deal with because of a lack of clarity of purpose in the law,” but you are not saying that.

Harvi Khatkar: I am not totally familiar with the exact detail of every aspect of that change in legislation. I would be happy to go back and provide a formal response to you. But I would still say that, regardless of the powers that the police are invested with in all the areas of policing we deal with, we still have to deal with things proportionately and recognise our obligations under the Human Rights Act. All of those are considerations of commanders in public order situations.

Q192       Carolyn Harris: Economic crime and fraud has exploded. A victim of it, I know how extremely frustrating it is that there never seems to be anything you can do about it. Do you feel that your members have the resource, the training and, as Andy Cooke said, the financial rewards for retention to allow them to tackle and specialise in this crime?

Steve Hartshorn: We have certain officers who are highly trained in economic crime and fraud, but we always need more, because it is very complex. There are joint partnerships that we need to do with the banking and financial industries to make sure we can get the data right and understand what it means. If you go back many years to when we first had cards and cash machines, we were told, “Of course you can’t have credit card fraud,” or that it didn’t happen because the banks refused to accept it, and then we said it did happen.

The problem we have is that organised crime has significant funds and can always be one step ahead. It embraces technology far quicker than policing, so for me, the ideal picture would be that every police officer has a very good grounding in the basics of economic cyber-crime and fraud, so that they can understand, when a report is made, what it actually means. If you try to explain high-level fraud to most frontline police officers, they will go, “That’s not my skillset. I don’t understand it.” They will take a basic report, but they might miss out some of the fundamental detail needed for the specialist investigation down the line.

I would like to see better training at the front end, certainly than what we have now, but then we perhaps do need more specialist people. Sir Mark Rowley said that he wants to bring in specialist investigators. You can do that as a civilian, but if you want them to have police powers, they have to be a police officer. Of course, that costs money. If you look at some of the recent police uplift programme statistics, it talks about recruitment from various sectors. The highest recruitment is from the tourism and commercial sector, but if you go down right to the bottom, 3% is from the IT sector. Now, if you need IT skills in policing, that is the area you need to invest in, but is the money there to say, “Come from being an IT specialist and investigator—a data analyst—into policing?” The funds aren’t there, so there perhaps needs to be proper training within policing, as opposed to bringing in people who are trained to that level. Can we do more across the board? But we absolutely do need more specialist investigators.

Q193       Carolyn Harris: Thank you. This is my last question, because I need to go into the Chamber. We currently have a 43-force model. I was really surprised to realise that there was no requirement for those forces to use the same digital system. How fit for the future is the model?

Steve Hartshorn: I think that if you were designing it from scratch, you would have one system across every police service in the country, because it is incumbent on us to be able to communicate properly and effectively. There was a recent review done by, I think, Sir Tom Winsor that said the 43-force model in its current form is not fit for purpose. Indeed, if you look at how a board of directors is set up, you should have a board of probably less than 10 people. When you have 43 separate chief constables with their own operational independence and budgets, it is incredibly difficult to have that consistency of data and programme across the board. There are, of course, national police procurement processes where you should be procuring things properly, but forcing that challenge on everybody has, I think, failed over the years.

I don’t know what would be the right level for how many forces you have. If you look at Wales, I think Dr Richard Lewis has said that ideally, he wants a one-force model in Wales, but that has not been properly explored. What does that look like against devolution for Wales? What does it look like in the United Kingdom? Again, I am conscious that if I say, “We’ll reduce the numbers,” I am getting rid of some of my own chairs and secretaries across the country from regions, but I think there is a better way to be more effective, with unity in buying and proper purchasing power to get an embedded system that we can use across everybody. But of course, you have to train people in that and phase out the old system for the new one. It is an easy answer, but it is more difficult to implement in reality.

Carolyn Harris: Thank you.

Q194       Paula Barker: Sir Mark Rowley has reportedly said that police officers find it “galling” when they have to help fill gaps during public sector strikes, when they cannot take action themselves. Is that the view of your members?

Steve Hartshorn: It certainly is for the members I represent. Recently, I have had some anecdotal accounts sent through from our branch chairs and secretaries about police officers being asked to ferry victims to hospitals. That takes them away from their core function as police officers, which is to protect the public and detect crime. When they then get to the hospitals, they are sat around for a long time—as is the case with ambulances. As Tim Loughton has already said, they can be sat there in pairs for hours waiting to be served. It was interesting to note that, during the first ambulance strike, at the end of last year, the local ambulance service in London was saying that they will wait 45 minutes and then go. To me, that should have been happening anyway, so that you can literally turn up, do the paperwork and, as long as the patient is stable, you can hand them over. Of course, they need the relevant resources on the receiving side to do that, not least for policing.

The impact of other public sectors taking a strike is that the police are called on for public safety. When the railway workers go on strike, if you have large numbers of the public suddenly at the relevant train stations, it is an extra burden on police officers to deal with their safety. It is right to do that, but it takes us away from our core function of responding to 999 calls and being proactive in deterring some of the crimes that are taking place in those very areas. I suppose “galling” is an interesting word. It is disheartening, because we do not have the right to strike, as Crown servants.

Harvi Khatkar: As Steve stated, we do not have the right to strike. I actually do not think our members would want to do that. I absolutely recognise what is happening with the other sectors at the moment, but we have a really challenging role to do as police officers. There is research from the Oscar Kilo—the National Police Wellbeing Service—saying that officers, throughout their tenure in policing, which can span 20 or 30 years, will experience between 400 and 600 traumatic incidents. That is significantly higher than most other sectors, which will have single figures of incidents. I guess our staff just want to feel that they are recognised for the work they do and the risk they carry through all the work and the decisions they make, as well as that they are renumerated fairly—and that the process is fair.

Q195       Paula Barker: Carrying on from that, in terms of a wellbeing and mental health crisis in policing, what tangible difference do you think the frontline review has made so far? Has there been a significant difference?

Harvi Khatkar: We really welcome the covenant, because wellbeing is important to all our members, for the reasons I have just outlined. However, with things such as the blue-light framework—the self-assessment—although it was introduced in 2019, some forces have still not completed that self-assessment. One key issue from all our membership is that we have that consistency across forces—that we have some minimum standards in occupational health across all forces and that that is invested in by all forces. That has an impact on wellbeing and the number of hours that people are then absent from work due to sickness. We really welcome the Government introducing the covenant; it is just about that consistency across all forces.

Q196       Paula Barker: This was something from 2019, and some forces have not introduced it yet. What are you hearing are the reasons for not introducing it?

Harvi Khatkar: It has been introduced, but not every force has completed it—it is a self-assessment. We really need to get to that baseline so that the same level of service is offered to all members and staff across all forces. It should be mandated.

Q197       Paula Barker: I suppose that was my next point. Why is it not mandated? You are quite right in what you say about the knock-on effect. You just gave some figures about how, in a career that spans 20 or 30 years, some of the situations a police officer finds themselves in can be extremely distressing, challenging and dangerous. Those things are probably not comparable to the experiences of most public sector workers. So why is it not mandated?

Steve Hartshorn: I tried to tackle this question the other day when we talked about exit surveys and retention in policing. The response I got was that it was not for the Home Secretary or the Police Minister to interfere with the chief constable’s operational independence. However, as a PC, I take a different view.

I get told by my supervisors when I am on an operation, “This is what you will do,” because it is a hierarchical service, and that is what you must do. While I fully respect the chief constable’s operational independence to do certain things, when you are looking at the welfare of police officers, there are some things that should be mandated—absolutely.

In terms of data across the police service, look at Op Hampshire—the process looking at assaults on police—which we would like to be taken on by every single chief constable. It is a new way of reporting assaults on police. Every year, chief constables have to provide data for the annual data returns. It is a very clunky process, and it can miss things. If you adopt this new Op Hampshire process, it is simple to do. Frontline supervisors can do it. You can get daily, weekly, monthly snapshots of what is happening to your officers at the press of a button. You can provide that to the Home Office very quickly, so they can produce their report.

Normally, on ADRs, it is 12 months historical. You submit it. It is then six months to process and cleanse the data—you are 18 months behind. There is some resistance to adopting a new process, but it is free, it is done on the Microsoft 365 platform and it has been developed, so I do not understand why chiefs don’t embrace it today and do it properly. That is something we are pushing for.

In terms of other data, you could ask chiefs to, say, provide a proper exit survey for police officers so we can understand the real reasons why they are leaving. Why can’t that be mandated? The reason was, again, “We can’t do that, because of operational independence.” If it works for chiefs to tell me what to do, to a degree, why can’t the Home Sec have the power on certain things to say, “This must be done”?

We all know the value of data and how important it is. If we can have consistency of responses across every one of the 43 forces in the country, we can then start to make a real difference and understand this. We know that PTSD is on the increase among police officers. There is low morale and high fatigue. It is the perfect storm for people. As Andy Cooke has already said, people don’t want to come into policing, because it is not a good place to be.

Q198       Paula Barker: Of the forces where those assessments are not completed, are you aware of the statistical data around sickness levels and people leaving? Is there any data available? I am interested in whether the sickness levels in those forces who are doing this, exercising their duty of care to police officers, following up on exit interviews and so on are lower than in the forces that are not doing these things.

Harvi Khatkar: I don’t have that data in front of me, but I am happy to provide some data to the Committee. It would probably be from Oscar Kilo, who have commissioned this work, as opposed to from the association. I am happy to have that discussion and then report back to the Committee.

Paula Barker: That is great. That would be really helpful.

Chair: We are getting a little short of time. Diane Abbott.

Q199       Ms Abbott: Mr Hartshorn, I am very interested in the role that the Police Federation plays behind the scenes and the extent to which senior officers are unwilling to actually suspend people like David Carrick because they are concerned that the Police Federation might object to a member being suspended when there hasn’t been a case proven. I have seen this in the past: people in any other public sector organisation would get suspended when things happen that they are involved in, but that doesn’t happen with the police. People have always put it to me that it is the Police Federation that blocks that.

Steve Hartshorn: Without being rude, I wish the Police Federation had that power; we don’t. If a chief constable or their deputed authority wants to suspend somebody, they can do. We have no right to veto that at all. What we will do is try to make a representation based on the process that has been followed, to make sure that the correct processes were adhered to, out of fairness for everybody, and to stop vexatious complaints. We will make those representations to the chief constable directly or to the commissioner or the appropriate authority. They make the final decision on who is suspended, who is restricted and who is returned to operational duty. We just make representations. We are not the determining authority on that.

Q200       Ms Abbott: So you make your representations. You will recall the case of Chris Kaba, who was a young man in Streatham who was killed by a police officer, as far as anybody knows, at point-blank range. Now, that police officer was not initially suspended; he was put on duties where he was not in contact with the public. When the senior officers moved to suspend him, what you read about in the newspapers was that the Met’s firearms command was extremely upset and threatened to hand in their weapons—they were so upset that one of their colleagues had been suspended, even when someone had died. Did you hear about anything like that?

Steve Hartshorn: I did hear about it. I read about it. I am not involved in the case, so it would be inappropriate for me to comment on a live investigation. However—

Q201       Ms Abbott: No, but the firearms command handing in their weapons because someone has been suspended.

Steve Hartshorn: If I can correct that, with respect ma’am, it was the police officers on the armed response crews that mooted that, because of the way he was suspended, they felt it was inappropriate, and they were concerned about it happening to them. The firearms command itself supervise officers. CO19—or MO19 as it is now called—would not have any control over how those officers handed the weapons in. They are volunteers and, if they felt that the process that was followed—from what they knew—was inappropriate, they have a right to be concerned about whether, if there is a shooting the following day, the same thing could happen. But I am not alive to all the investigation details and, indeed, I am not their federation representative, so I am only going on what I have heard in the news and from what you have said there yourself.

Q202       Ms Abbott: Finally, with the Carrick case, one thing people are surprised at is that there were, I think, nine different complaints against him over 20 years, and nothing happened. Clearly, he did not go to court or anything like that, but there were nine different complaints, and nothing happened. Is it the case that concern about the Police Federation stopped him from being suspended on any of those occasions? It is this issue about the Police Federation clearly defending its members come what may. I know that you cannot take the ultimate decision, but a concern about what the Police Federation will say stops senior officers doing what, from the public’s point of view, seems the obvious thing to do.

Steve Hartshorn: Again, we just do not have that power. We will make representations. I share your concerns: if there have been nine opportunities that have been missed, that does raise concerns for me. Whenever an allegation is made, it goes into the relevant police force’s department for professional standards. It is then looked at and is logged on a system called Tribune. It used to be that, if you had three complaints of any type, you had a complaint intervention scheme to be looked at. That would be dealt with by at least a chief inspector or above, to go, “What are the problems here?”

Again, at the risk of commenting on what I do not know about, I am not sure if that took place over that period of time. I would sincerely hope it has. I would like to think that, if there have been at least two or three complaints of sexual assault or inappropriate behaviour, that is looked at and flagged. I suppose the difficulty for the police is that they might look at an allegation and say, “Well, it’s not proven. Therefore, we can return them.” But when you have certain levels of crime, that should be ringing alarm bells about patterns of behaviour that are inappropriate. It happens in other industries, where you look at it, and it would be dealt with.

Again, I do not know what has not taken place within the internal system in the Metropolitan police, to be honest. I know that I have had members who have been picked up for complaints; they have been tracked for the three complaints, and it has been dealt with very effectively. But I do not know what has happened in the local command where the officer was or what has happened with the Metropolitan police department for professional standards. 

Q203       Ms Abbott: Just quickly, because I am conscious of the time, what you are saying is that, in your experience, if three complaints are made, there should be some sort of action looking at what would cause three complaints to be made. 

Steve Hartshorn: It used to be called the complaint intervention scheme. If you look at the codes of conduct, they are very onerous on any police officer. It is quite impactive, and I would challenge anybody—people in this room—to work to police codes on misconduct. It is incredibly—I would not say oppressive—but it is there to make sure you stick to what should be done properly. You get the complaints, and it is investigated. It might be that you have three complaints, and you just were not there—you were not on duty—so that can be discounted. But it is complaints that get looked at. The substantive complaints—is there a theme of behaviour?—should be picked up on. I am assuming that the Metropolitan police still do the three strikes and you get spoken to. You would like to think that, after any complaint, there is some intervention about behaviour and understanding it or not. But, again, it depends on the victim, the outcome and whether it is a substantive complaint or a vexatious complaint.

Q204       Ms Abbott: Absolutely finally, can you assure the Committee that complaints about domestic violence are taken as seriously as complaints about any other form of sexual assault?

Steve Hartshorn: I would sincerely hope so, given that most domestic murders are committed by people who are known to the victim. I would like to think that any crime is taken seriously within policing.  Obviously, you have to triage the responses, but domestic violence is particularly pertinent. I think there was a report recently on domestic violence from the police service itself—about victims feeling that they cannot come forward to speak and not being dealt with properly. Again, that goes back to having a victim-centred approach to everybody who reports crime, so I sincerely hope it is taken very seriously.

Q205       Chair: Can I ask—you might not know this—whether any of your members reported concerns to the Police Federation about David Carrick?

Steve Hartshorn: I am not aware of it, but nationally at the Police Federation of England and Wales, we would not deal with that. It would perhaps be dealt with by the Metropolitan Police Federation, which is part of the overall federation for 43 forces across the country. You would have to ask them on that one.

Chair: Okay, thank you. Marco Longhi.

Q206       Marco Longhi: Thank you for starting your depositions today with an apology, because victims deserve an apology, as do your colleagues who come in to do an honest day’s work day in, day out, putting themselves in harm’s way. They also deserve an apology, because, inevitably, people get tarred with the same brush. I get that.

I want to talk a little about how we rebuild trust. Clearly, there has been a massive impact on trust and trust in our police forces. Yes, trust has been lost because of what’s happened—Couzens, Carrick and so on—and it’s not just the Met police.

But there is also something about trusting the police to turn up when an armed burglary is taking place. When that doesn’t happen, resources get blamed. But they turn up and dance the macarena with Extinction Rebellion, and we talk about human rights. I think you referred to the human right to protest. What about the human rights of those people who want to go about their daily lives unimpeded?

I don’t know what it is about police forces in Europe that don’t stand for that kind of pandering to ECHR. They are all members of the ECHR and obey human rights, but they don’t take that view, so it is a question of judgment, interpretation and therefore competence. We talk about institutionalised misogyny. That might or might not be the case. I am inclined to agree that it might be the case, but is it a question of institutionalised incompetence and judgment? Are those failing in the police force as well?

Harvi Khatkar: I think there are very good police officers. We do acknowledge—Mr Cooke referred to this earlier—that there is a lack of experience in certain areas, and we know that we have a shortage of investigative skills in policing across the service.

In terms of incidents that you have referred to today, and incidents that your colleague has referred to, where a member of the public is ringing the police on a 999 call, we would expect a police force to respond to those. I can’t respond on any specific incident, but we would like to think that forces do respond to those. I also acknowledge, though, that there are times when members of the public have to wait longer than we would like, for a variety of reasons. I don’t have any data in front of me to talk about that. We look at all those incidents. For the police, it goes back to that mission, that clarity.

We referred earlier to the criminal justice system. We really welcome a whole-system review of the criminal justice system. We know from our members—we referred to this earlier—that victims, particularly in Crown court, are having to wait up to two years to get to trial. We also know that some of this has been compounded not just by covid, but by some of the challenges around capacity and resourcing in the judiciary. That is information that our members are providing to us.

The challenge for that area, having previously worked in criminal justice as head of a department, is that our witness care units are having to work with victims and to keep victims engaged for those periods of time. It is very traumatic for a victim to wait for that length of time to get to trial. We know that sometimes they are being warned for court listings. They are then de-warned. All those are traumatic, so we really welcome a whole review of the criminal justice system.

It is not just about policing; it is about our other partners within the judiciary and the Crown Prosecution Service. I know that there has been mention of some of the challenges with the additional work with the Attorney General guidance that has been brought in, and some of those issues are being looked at by the Home Office, the Home Secretary and also—

Chair: We are running very short of time, so if you could shorten your answers slightly, that would be helpful.

Harvi Khatkar: Yes. I would expect the police to turn up to incidents, but I recognise that, sadly, that has not been the case.

Q207       Marco Longhi: When Mr Cooke was here before, I asked him what needs to change. We all know what needs to change: we would like the police to get back to basics, and we would like things not to happen the way they have been happening. My point, when I was asking how confident we are that change will happen, was that I do not have clarity around what, in practical terms, is actually going to bring about change. When I pressed him on that point, he said, “I need to inspect more—the inspectorate needs to inspect.” Well, okay, but that does not inspire me with confidence. How confident are you that we will get to a stage soon—or at least lay out a path or a direction of travel—where the public out there can have real trust in the police, and we will get back to proper, common-sense policing?

Steve Hartshorn: I don’t think it will be a quick path to getting back to confidence in policing. Some of the steps are of a very practical nature: let’s get back to community-based policing or neighbourhood policing—putting police officers out there, walking the beat. It was a tried-and-tested method, and it perhaps harks back to the good old days of “Dixon of Dock Green”, for those who can remember it. That used to be the best option, but the demands on policing have changed significantly now in terms of the types of crime we are investigating. However, in terms of a significant increase in the numbers we want to put on the frontline, how many of you saw a police officer on the way to work this morning? You don’t see them, because they are in their police vehicles, driving around and responding to crime. I have long advocated having a police officer at the transport hub, so that you can speak to them and engage with them. We know that 600 police stations have been closed across the country in recent years, so the public cannot go and engage with the police. The only time you see a police officer is when you actually need help and you have dialled 999, or when there is a major incident. That needs to change. We need to be seen as part of the community, as I was—I started 27 years ago at Barking and Dagenham, and I had the Gascoigne estate, one of the biggest estates of its type in Europe. Part of my shift pattern was to spend time there to get to know the community, so that when things happened, you had those community links to build the bridge and understand.

That will help on one level—a very localised level—but you then need an uprating of skill for national responses to types of crime such as counter-terrorism and serious organised crime, which are provided by the NCA but which also incorporate policing, because we cannot forget that you have local crime and national crime. It needs more numbers. When was the last time the Government took a service-level agreement, given the size of the public we have now? There has been an increase of 4 million in the population in the last 10 years. Are 145,000 police officers enough to deal with it? I suggest it isn’t, because we are failing the public. We cannot give the service we want to, because we are constantly responding, as opposed to being proactive. Certain elements can—the National Crime Agency can, and organised crime hubs can—but that means that crime has had to take place in the first place to be investigated.

We should be more preventative than ever before, but it is about putting boots on the ground to get there. If you show the visible face of policing, you can deter and dissuade lots of crime. Going back to what Ms Abbott asked about domestic violence, you cannot stop that—it is internal—but you can try to prevent it by being present, so that people do not feel safe to commit that type of crime in the first place.

Harvi Khatkar: I would echo Steve’s sentiments. We do need to reinvest in local policing, because that is the foundation of policing. I also support Dr Rick Muir’s report, in which he refers to the localised level and then the regional ability of forces to work on more complex crimes with specialist capabilities. It is about making sure we have investment in the right training of staff in those investigative skills. Then there are the national threats that we are dealing with. We need to have that model. We also need the standards that the college sets for authorised professional practice to be mandated, and they need to be consistent across all forces. Then there is that inspection through HMICFRS.

Q208       Chair: Thank you. Can I ask both of you whether you would join the police again if you were 18 or 21?

Harvi Khatkar: I absolutely would. I have had, to date, a really enjoyable career. Yes, it has had its ups and downs—every career has. I would like to see more diversity within policing.

Steve Hartshorn: Sadly, I would have to say no. I was asked this in an interview last week. We were talking about our pay and morale survey, which has just been launched, and with a heavy heart I said no, because of the pay, the pension, and the terms and conditions. The pressures on policing are such that I would not encourage my family to join at the moment. If it changes and it gets back to being a good level of remuneration, absolutely. It is vocational; it is a calling.

It is disappointing to see that, historically, policing was undermined if it was not a long-term career. You absolutely need experience to do the things you do in policing. Much like yourselves, you need vast amounts of experience. You cannot just bring new people in and go, “That’s going to be happening.” I have a real concern about the future. If we get to 50% service under five years in policing, that is going to have a huge impact, because you need experience. We are not focused on retention, but what’s to keep me in policing? Nothing, because in three years’ time I will have 30 years’ service. I would suffer a pension detriment by staying on. I would suffer an allowance detriment. There is no point in staying on. With policing as it is, it is not getting better any time soon, so with a very heavy heart the answer would be no.

Chair: Thank you for your honesty on that, and thank you so much for your evidence to the session today. It is part of our inquiry into policing priorities, and we will be producing a report. Your evidence will be included in that, so thank you so much for today.