(POP0041)

Submission of Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire (POP0041)

 

 

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

 

1. There have been a number of reports recently looking at what a modern police service should look like, from the exacting report of the Police Foundation looking at a Strategic Review of Policing to the Policy Exchange Report – a force fit for the future.  These reports have many points in common, looking at what the Police should be involved with and areas where they are picking up incidents that are not part of their ‘core’ business.

 

2. This chimes with the APCC and NPCC vision for policing 2025 which was published in 2016 and then looked at the changes due to Digital Policing and the possible integration of neighbourhood policing with other local services with belief that by intervening earlier in the life span of problems that cause crime and anti-social behaviour, this would eventually reduce demand on policing and other public services.

 

3. Rather than re-write these reports, I can report on the experience in West Yorkshire as one of the best Police Forces in the country (according to HMICFRS)

 

4. As Mayor I have found that

 

              Police officer numbers have still not fully recovered from the Government’s austerity measures imposed in 2010, however, I have pledged to help reverse that damage with an additional 750 officers and staff across our county.

              We are on course to achieve the 750 pledge and also deliver on our promise to maintain the number of PCSO at 566 by April 2022.

 

5. I believe in policing by consent, and so we have been working hard to create a more diverse police force in the process. Over the last 12 months it has increased, with over 17% of new joiners being from Black, Asian, mixed or other backgrounds.

 

              I have supported West Yorkshire Police to go further in their excellent work to recruit more Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic officers, and female officers. I have also met the PEQF provider each quarter to ensure the retention of BAME officers is prioritised and that there is no/reduced attainment gap.

 

6. The first point of call for many members of the public is when they have to ring 999 in an emergency. West Yorkshire Police is rightly proud that they have not dropped a 999 call in the last 5 years and have a good record in attendance. 

 

7. In West Yorkshire I have put the Safety of Women and Girls at the heart of my police plan and the police have responded with a variety of measures to look at the Violence Against Women and Girls agenda.  Bringing together my areas of responsibility across transport and policing I have launched a Bus Safety Feedback tool - developed as part of a successful bid to the Home Office Safety of Women at Night Fund - which empowers people to tell us how safe they feel on the bus network with consideration given to the safety of women and girls at night.

 

8. Part of the Combined Authority’s bid to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund is to fund work with Local Authority partners to support the safety of women and girls.   This is critical to promoting economic growth; just taking domestic abuse alone – the Government estimated in 2019 that the cost of physical and emotional harm suffered by victims to be £47 billion nationally.  Again, as a Mayor with responsibility for regeneration I am able to convene partners to bring a co-ordinated response to the issue.

 

9. This is a true partnership response with not just policing involved but all partners coming together to problem solve and agree priorities.  This needs to be a model for all areas, be that looking at the increase in calls due to Mental Health or dealing with the county lines that blight our neighbourhoods.  But this cannot be done by police alone and there needs to be more powers given to the Mayors/PCC’s who understand the local area, to draw all partners including local authorities, health and probation to deal with the complex problems which are visible in our communities but can only be dealt with across multiple institutions.

 

10. But all this is put in jeopardy due to the imminent problems with the budgets in police, they are being subject to the same pressures as we all are, with increases across the board for energy costs and unfunded pay rises.  This along with the requirement to increase the number of police officers, means that there will be a need to find substantial savings elsewhere to already pared down resources and so the resulting team of officers will be left trying to cover all roles which is not either financially or economically viable.

 

 

 

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

 

11. There is a real balancing act that needs to be struck as many of the functions of the police are not seen as core business by the general public, but they are fundamental for community safety.

 

12. Also, the pattern of crime has changed due to the lockdowns during the pandemic.  The return to normality has not included a return to previous crime levels, with many of the Serious Acquisitive Crime types continuing at lower levels, whereas violent crimes including many that disproportionately affect Women and Girls seeing an increase.

 

13. With the strict application of Crime Data Integrity, we are seeing an increase in low harm offences which would previously have been recorded as Anti-Social Behaviour such as public order and harassment crimes.  I am aware that other forces are not in the same place regarding crime recording, so it is increasingly difficult to see whether the increase is due to crime recording practices, or due to an actual rise in offences.

 

14. When the way to look at solving crime is by the rates being charged this is made impossible when many of the crimes are third party reports and will never have a viable suspect.

 

15. Also, this negates the wishes of the victim as the only positive outcome is one where the suspect is charged or cautioned when the victim may not want to go through the criminal justice process and just want the suspect spoken to or taken away from the situation.

 

16. Again, what we are seeing is that each area has their own problems, and this cannot be solved by national crime targets or trying to increase outcome rates, but by local areas looking at their own priorities in conjunction with their community and all local services.

 

17. But this should not be to the detriment of other policing functions as many are not visible to the public (such as digital crimes and organised crime groups) but have a devasting impact on the community.

 

18. For West Yorkshire we are looking at how the work that we do can interlink with communities for crime prevention and problem solving this includes:

 

 

 

 

 

19. The work of the Violence Reduction Units shows how early intervention is needed to stop the cycle of violence through generations.  Knife Crime and other crimes have been reduced by working with young people in the area.  This area of work needs to be continued to have any chance of true success.

 

20. West Yorkshire Police also runs a bespoke, free, education programme to all schools in our area (currently taken up by about half of all 1200 schools) “Pol-Ed”, which covers the life cycle of children and young people in schools (years 1-13).  The accredited course seeks to protect students from harm through education and awareness raising and is the only course of its kind, in the country.

 

 

 

 

3) What roles police forces should prioritise;

 

21. When talking to members of the public, their priorities for the Police Force are for them to attend emergency calls when required, to solve crimes and to support the vulnerable.

 

22. But when asking them which crimes to prioritise they include child sexual exploitation and drugs trafficking and gangs.

 

23. Although the numbers of police officers are increasing, there is a problem with some areas of policing including detective numbers.  Again, I would say that there is a role for those that understand the area to ensure that the right areas are prioritised.

 

24. One of the neglected areas in the police is regarding first line management.  With the average age of recruits getting younger and younger, the pressure on the first line management is intense, with a need to impart life skills as well as policing skills.

 

 

4) 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;

 

25. Many of the problems we are seeing with public confidence currently are due to increasing numbers of officers not having the in-depth training that is required to deal with the complexities in our communities.

 

26. The Safety of Women and Girls agenda has seen a new West Yorkshire Independent Stalking Advocate Service come to fruition which was in response to some horrific stories about stalking.  With the number of referrals for this crime quadrupling in the past year, we can see that this sort of service is overdue and reflects a need that has not been covered previously.

 

27. The Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in West Yorkshire is also the APCC lead for Race Disparities and Equality, Diversity and Human Rights and she is modelling good practice, here in West Yorkshire.  We have seen how working with our communities can change perceptions of policing and with effective training of officers such as unconscious bias the officers are more prepared for their role.

 

28. The scrutiny of Stop and Search and Use of Force means that all are aware of the priority the force puts on this, and the use of technology (such as body worn video cameras) helps to ensure that any complaints are dealt with effectively and transparently.

 

29. Some of the reports talk about Police complaints regulations.  There is some work required to look at the processes as they are taking too long and put undue stress on all those involved.  There is indication that the IOPC processes are not taking as long as they were, but these are still protracted investigations and need to reduce further.

 

30. The Mayor/PCC’s office has some oversight of complaints, but each force is different, and transparency is a problem.  At the moment the only time the public hears about this area of business is when there is a high-profile case going to court or a report such as the one recently on the Metropolitan Police Service.  If there was more transparency for police complaints, the public would be more aware of the work taking place to ensure integrity in the police service.

 

31. West Yorkshire is facing similar problems as the rest of the country with regard to access to Legally Qualified Chairs and pace is required to resolve this situation so that processes are not further protracted.

 

5) Specifically, what the Metropolitan Police must do to increase trust under its new Commissioner; and

 

32. There is currently no trust that the Metropolitan Police Service knows how to deal with their own, so an independent body should be appointed to deal with all complaints in the service (including low level complaints and repeats) to improve public confidence and increase trust.

 

 

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

 

33. One of the main relationships with the Crown Prosecution Service is via the Local Criminal Justice Boards.  Currently the data for these boards is produced on a national level and while the police and courts data is at local level, the CPS data is still at regional level.

 

34. In order to understand the complexities of conviction rates and how to change them, then this data is required at local level for problem solving and understanding.  This data should be available to the main partners on the LCJB (police, CPS and courts) for them to problem solve cases together and build reports which can be shared with other partners on the LCJB.  This would ensure that the current ambiguity does not mask the problems and proper interdepartmental problem solving can take place.

 

35. There needs to be a clear understanding that a conviction at court is not always the best outcome for a victim.  Referrals to perpetrator programmes (which need long-term funding) or other training may be a better outcome for both parties.  Conviction rate targets would stop this type of innovation in its tracks.

 

36. Some of the current data is ambiguous and the imposition of Crime Data Integrity means that crimes are recorded via a third party with no hope of conviction.  Recording crimes in this way ensures that many low harm crimes are linked on the system and provide a picture of what is happening in the neighbourhoods but will never lead to more convictions at court. 

 

37. We need to see some nuances in data recording in order to drive conviction rates, with an understanding that higher harm crimes take longer to investigate, and it is these criminals that the public want to see behind bars.

 

38. Whilst putting together the police and crime plan an extensive consultation with the public was undertaken and we found that they wanted the police to deal with CSEA and Neighbourhood Crime and ASB as a priority.  This was not about conviction rates but dealing with those who target the vulnerable and blight the community.  It is these areas that should be prioritised.

 

39. With the current backlogs in the Criminal Justice System and the length of time taken for trials to take place, victims feel that they are being left out.  This needs to change before there can be any improvement in the conviction rates as it will encourage victims to come forward in the knowledge that perpetrators will be dealt with expediently.

 

40. This all means that the Mayors/PCC’s need stronger powers to hold the LCJB partners to account and ensure that victims have a stronger voice in the system.

 

41. Some consideration of the CPS threshold for charging needs to be explored and more powers need to be given to forces to charge independently of CPS, especially around Domestic Abuse.  Currently, it takes too long for decisions on charging to take place and access to CPS for advice needs to be given (as it used to be) and funded.

 

October 2022