Written evidence submitted by The Police Foundation (POP0035)


1. The Police Foundation is an independent, charitable think tank. We bridge the gap between the police, government, academia and the public by providing research and evidence to improve policing for the benefit of the public.


What a modern police service, fit for the 2020s and beyond, looks like;


2. The Police Foundation’s Strategic Review of Policing[1], chaired by Sir Michael Barber, sets out a vision for the kind of police service required to meet the challenges of today and the mid-21st century.


3. Traditional crime (all crime except fraud and cybercrime) has fallen by 75 per cent since 1995, but new forms of crime and harm have created additional demand. The public safety challenges of the coming decades are complex and significant. These shifts have been generated by three transformations: the technological revolution, an environmental crisis and social change. As a result, and in addition to the impact of austerity, there are worrying declines in police performance indicators: public confidence, detection rates and victim satisfaction continue to fall, while public concern about crime and response times are increasing. Our analysis pinpoints three key strategic challenges facing the police.


4. First, there is a capacity challenge: the police cannot tackle the range and complexity of public safety demand on their own. To address this, we need a whole system that goes beyond policing and specifies a clearer role for the police. There needs to be far more emphasis on the prevention of crime and wider harm across government, business and society. This will produce economic and social benefits and reduce reliance on a largely reactive emergency response and criminal justice system.


5. To address this challenge, the government should establish a Crime Prevention Agency with responsibility for delivering a cross-departmental Crime Prevention Strategy. This agency should also enforce a legal duty on large private sector organisations to prevent crime.


6. Within a wider public safety system, we view the role of the police as to promote public safety by maintaining order and upholding the law, which their unique powers enable them to do, and carry out other activities which enable them to perform this core role legitimately, effectively and with minimum reliance on those powers.


7. Second, the police have a capability challenge: the police service does not have the capability to meet the current and future safety threats we face. There needs to be renewed focus on securing legitimacy, improving skills and technology, learning and development, wellbeing and leadership.


8. Third, the police face an organisational challenge: the police service needs a different organisational platform from which to deliver these capabilities. While we think the current 43 force model provides a strong local policing dimension, it does pose some significant challenges:



9. Therefore, the Strategic Review recommends:




What balance police forces in England and Wales should strike between a focus on preventing and solving crime and carrying out their other functions;


10. This question references a recurrent criminological debate about the proper role and function the police should play within society: should they principally be ‘crime fighters’ or should they have a wider social ‘order management’ function, including for instance dealing with people in mental health crisis and searching for missing people?


11. As Professor Ian Loader[2] sets out (in a paper commissioned by the Police Foundation’s Strategic Review) the former position is simply empirically untenable: the public ask and need the police to do much more than catch and deter criminals (for instance the College of Policing estimate that 83 per cent of calls to police do not relate directly to crime but to wider disorder, safety and welfare concerns).[3] On the other hand, the latter ‘order maintenance’ position presents challenges in specifying the proper boundaries of the police role leaving them open to both ‘overstretch’ and ‘overreach’ into areas of social provision better provided by others.


12. Our resolution is to this issue is to ultimately root the role of the police in its monopoly on the legal use of force, and the utility of that power (whether discharged or not) for imposing provisional solutions to immediate circumstances of disorder, conflict and public safety risk.


13. However, we also believe that the police, like other social public services, should have an imperative to perform this essentially reactive role with a preventative mindset and as part of a preventatively oriented system. This has implications for the set of functions and activities the police should perform. We are currently developing a three-level framework to capture this:


  1. People: when the police respond to calls, they should have a preventative mindset. This means making referrals to other better-placed agencies, ensuring an appropriate criminal justice response, managing people who have offended and issuing diversionary interventions. This involves close multi-agency collaboration, holistic, person-centred thinking, discretion, and looking beyond the crime in front of them.
  2. Problems: this involves identifying ‘problems’ (sets of circumstances that underlie and give rise to multiple instances of crime, disorder, and safety risk) and intervening proactively and creatively to ‘solve’ them. This is also best done in collaboration with others.
  3. Places: understanding the wider ‘intangible’ conditions that affect public safety and resilience.



What roles police forces should prioritise;


14. The Police Foundation has undertaken significant work on police ‘priorities’.[4][5] We would caution against a strong emphasis on the concept without further consideration of the varying contexts, levels and meanings that can be attached to the term, for example prioritising different crime types, responding to local/community priorities, assessing threat/risk/harm, vulnerability, addressing priority issues at strategic/operational, national/local levels.


15. At the strategic level we identify five capabilities that should be ‘prioritised’ if our police service is to meet future challenges:




What can be done to improve community policing and increase trust in police officers and forces, including on funding and on disciplinary powers when police officer behaviour falls below required standards;



16. As outlined, there are good reasons to be concerned about police legitimacy and its implications for police effectiveness. People from Black and Mixed ethnic groups, particularly those with Black Caribbean backgrounds, are far less likely than White people (and some other ethnic groups) to think local police will treat them fairly, with respect and that they can be trusted.


17. While policing is controversial by nature, high profile events have, rightly, meant public scrutiny of policing has increased considerably.


18. We think the future operating environment and public expectation means that reversing these trends and rebuilding legitimacy must receive primary attention. It is at the heart of the Peelian model of policing; the police can only successfully carry out their work with the support and cooperation of the public. This means putting far greater emphasis on procedural justice (treating people fairly and with respect), but also means the police must act lawfully and they must be effective in carrying out their role. They should also act within boundaries (accepting there are some areas, for example school discipline and behaviour, policing should largely stay clear of), and they should work to ensure that the costs and benefits of policing are fairly distributed throughout society (for example avoiding a situation in which some groups feel under protected and over policed).


19. There should be much better public dialogue and participation in decision-making, alignment with public priorities and values, and more deeply informed discretion. This, in practice, means building trust and connection locally through community policing. However, neighbourhood policing has been cut significantly in recent years. The Strategic Review of Policing therefore recommends the Home Office asks police forces to deliver a substantial uplift in neighbourhood policing with the view to building and sustaining legitimacy.


20. There are four areas that require specific attention.


21. First, the current pattern of stop and search use is not justified and ineffective. It creates a significant barrier to building trust and confidence, particularly among Black people who are disproportionately likely to be stopped and searched.


22. Second, looking to the future, the police must ensure that their use of technology and digital tools is ethical, proportionate and justified. This means ensuring there are appropriate governance arrangements in place, that questions of bias are attended to and that a principle of minimum intrusion is followed.


23. Third, unethical, illegal and immoral conduct by police officers is hugely detrimental to public trust and confidence. We support the recent shift in the police disciplinary regime towards promoting a ‘learning culture’ and dealing with less serious breaches of professional standards through line management action and reflective practice. We support Baroness Casey of Blackstock’s conclusions set out in her interim report on misconduct in the Metropolitan Police[6]; there needs to be a more effective and robust misconduct system to root out those intent on causing harm and those who hold dangerous views. As such, we recommend the Home Office reviews the use of independent chairs of police misconduct hearings, to identify whether recent reforms have made it harder to secure the dismissal of officers found guilty of misconduct.


24. Alongside this however, a wider culture of integrity is needed whereby higher ranks present a model for good conduct and all officers and staff feel empowered to call out and report misconduct. Evidence on the importance of organisational justice offers a promising basis for instigating cultural change.[7] In addition, a statutory duty of candour would help reverse an institutional tendency towards defensiveness and promote openness and transparent actions in the public interest.


25. Fourth, the police service is not representative of the communities it serves. There are too few women and ethnic minority police officers (most concerningly Black officers), particularly in higher ranks. At the current rate of change, it will take decades to achieve representation. The Strategic Review recommends legislative change to allow for time limited positive discrimination in a similar form to that used in the PSNI.


26. However, while a more representative workforce is necessary, it is not on its own sufficient.   The police also need to tackle disproportionate policing, improve the retention of ethnic minority officers and staff and attend to inequalities in career progression. Overall policing needs an anti-racist internal culture.



Specifically, what the Metropolitan Police must do to increase trust under its new Commissioner


27. London Public Attitude Survey data show marked deteriorations in Londoners’ assessments of police fairness and respectfulness, and their trust in police from early 2020 onwards. The numerous high-profile national and international events have likely contributed to this, but the Metropolitan Police has had a particular concentration of concerning incidents including: the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer, the handling of a vigil on Clapham Common, accusations of ‘institutional corruption’ following the inquiry into the murder of Daniel Morgan, the strip-search of Child Q, the police killing of Chris Kaba, a U-turn on recording the ethnicity of people involved in vehicle stops, and a series of examples of racist, misogynistic and homophobic cultures persisting before a damning review of the Met’s misconduct system. The Commissioner should fully engage with and accept the findings of Baroness Casey of Blackstock’s review.


28. Rebuilding and sustaining legitimacy must be the primary objective of the new Commissioner. Considering the diversity of London, specific attention needs to be given to gaining the trust and confidence of ethnic minority communities, particularly Black Caribbean groups.


Effective communication with the public is paramount; the Commissioner, and the service more generally, needs to be able to explain and justify decisions and engage with specific communities to understand their needs and concerns.


29. Stop and search is a totemic issue in London; the Metropolitan Police is responsible for around half of all stop and searches in England and Wales and 80 per cent of stop and searches are carried out on Black people. Black men aged 18-24 in London are 18 times more likely to be stopped and searched than the general London population. This rises to 26 times more likely for weapons searches. Black men aged 18-24 are around four times more likely to be stopped and searched than White men aged 18-24.[8] Adequately explaining or reforming this disproportionality has not been achieved by previous Commissioners; the new Commissioner must do so in line with HMICFRS guidance.[9]


30. Considering the racial disproportionality in the use of stop and search, the detrimental impact it has on trust and confidence, the trauma it can cause and the lack of evidence for it being an effective crime reduction tool, we propose six reforms that the Commissioner should act on:


  1. Stop and search should be used less, and grounds for suspicion must be stronger. Searches under Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) must be used far more sensitively considering they can have negative health-related and criminogenic impacts.[10][11] We have serious concerns about the misuse of Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which allows for suspicion-less searching. If it is to remain in law, we think it should only be used in emergency circumstances where there is intelligence that a significant outbreak of serious violence is likely to occur. At the very least, recent government relaxations of the rules around its use should be reversed.
  2. Police officer training and guidance on conducting stop and search in a procedurally just way, to ensure it is respectful, appropriate, impartial and does not escalate, should be mandatory. This would also extend to use of force; the IOPC has provided numerous examples where force is used too readily against Black people.[12]
  3. Racial bias must be eliminated through improved understanding of local contexts, anti-racism, the impact of current and historical actions, and trauma-informed practice. This needs to be done in conjunction with communities.
  4. Most stops and searches are for drugs, and most of these are for possession offences, which is unlikely to be a force priority. There should be a shift to a focus on problem-solving, partnership and prevention, and more holistic thinking. London’s VRU is doing good work in this space. This means diverting people towards social interventions and away from the criminal justice system whenever a search leads to a low-level ‘find’.
  5. There must be much more robust independent scrutiny, oversight and accountability. Scrutiny panels are often not representative, independent, purposeful, supported or influential.[13]
  6. As mentioned above, there needs to be much better communication. There should be continuous dialogue and deliberation with the public about policies, priorities, actions and decisions.



What steps can be taken to improve national conviction rates, including via relationships with other bodies such as the Crown Prosecution Service.


31. There is currently a national shortage of 7,000 detectives, which needs urgent attention.  Direct entry detective schemes should be expanded to cover the whole country and the pay disparity between investigative and response roles should be addressed. More enduring partnerships with the private sector (or indeed with other parts of the public sector) could help to address gaps in specialist areas where it is hard for the police to compete with private sector salaries.

32. It is concerning that the proportion of total cases with an identified suspect, but where further action was not taken due to victims not wanting to continue tripled between 2015 and 2021. Victim disengagement is in part driven by length of time to complete an investigation (which has increased significantly). This is partly explained by the police capacity issues laid out above, but also throughout the criminal justice system. There does however need to be much better victim care and support; victim satisfaction rates have been declining for a number of years.

33. Digital forensics needs a complete overhaul. While a huge majority of crimes have a digital element to them, we are aware of numerous challenges facing digital forensics teams[14]:


October 2022

[1] https://www.policingreview.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/srpew_final_report.pdf

[2] https://www.policingreview.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/insight_paper_2.pdf

[3] https://paas-s3-broker-prod-lon-6453d964-1d1a-432a-9260-5e0ba7d2fc51.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/2021-03/demand-on-policing-report.pdf

[4] https://www.police-foundation.org.uk/publication/understanding-the-publics-priorities-for-policing/

[5] https://www.police-foundation.org.uk/publication/prioritisation-in-a-changing-world/


[6] https://www.met.police.uk/SysSiteAssets/media/downloads/met/about-us/baroness-casey-review/baroness-casey-review-interim-report-on-misconduct.pdf

[7] https://assets.college.police.uk/s3fs-public/2022-04/Fair-cop-2-%20organisational-justice-behaviour-and-ethical-policing.pdf

[8] http://lesscrime.info/files/stop-and-search-london-2021-q4.pdf

[9] https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/wp-content/uploads/disproportionate-use-of-police-powers-spotlight-on-stop-search-and-use-of-force.pdf


[11] https://ideas.repec.org/p/pri/crcwel/wp19-09-ff.html

[12] https://www.policeconduct.gov.uk/national-stop-and-search-learning-report-april-2022#use-of-force

[13] https://criminaljusticealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/CJA-Stop-and-Scrutinise-2019.pdf

[14] https://www.police-foundation.org.uk/2017/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/value_of_digital_forensics.pdf