HAC Policing Priorities

 

Written Evidence submitted by Professor Sarah Charman and Dr Paul Gilmour

School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Portsmouth, UK

Response to Call for Evidence on Policing Priorities

 

The following submission represents the collated views of Charman and Gilmour who are academic experts in policing and economic crime. This submission focuses on Q3 and Q4 of the call for evidence and in particular on the policing priority of fraud and related computer crime; the perceptions and realities of the role of the police according to officer self-perceptions; the impact of procedural and organisational justice on police officers and the public.

 

  1. What roles police forces should prioritise

 

A.1

Fraud and related computer crimes now account for nearly half of all crimes reported to the police in England and Wales. Yet, detection figures have historically been low with less than 3% of fraud reported to police between 2017 and 2018 leading to any type of positive outcome, such as a charge, summons, caution, or community resolution. This situation has likely worsened through the Covid-19 pandemic with increased numbers of computer-enabled fraud being reported coupled with the delays in court cases. Yet only about 1% of police resources are dedicated to investigating frauds. Consequently, the policing response to fraud has been criticised as ineffective, with victims of fraud often left dissatisfied with the quality of the police’s investigation into fraud[1].

 

        The policing response to, and investigation of, economic crimes must be prioritised by police forces.

        Police investigators often lack knowledge and training in economic crime and this seems to be a significant factor in investigations’ success and, consequently, the service provided to victims.

        Adequate training must be given to police staff, officers and investigators in handling economic crime cases, including experienced detectives and new recruits to the police service on the PEQF programmes.

        A clear economic crime strategy must be devised and disseminated to police forces outlining how they intend to tackle economic crimes and new emerging threats.

        Further training is also needed to improve the process of disclosure in fraud cases with further resources dedicated to handling prosecuting cases in consultation with CPS. All CIDs should have dedicated prosecution case workers.

        The burden on investigators in preparing a criminal case must be reduced for all criminal cases, and a return to more streamlined prosecution case files is needed prior to pre-charging decisions. This is particularly the case for serious and complex cases which can involve vast amounts of documentary and digital evidence.

 

A.2

The police role is continually expanding. For example, the latest data from the National Crime Agency[2] indicates that in the year ending March 2021, there were almost 47,000 children reported as missing and over 73,000 adults, many of these are reported missing on more than one occasion. In addition to missing people, the police are also coping with a surge of calls about mental health issues among the population. Estimates from the Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing[3] suggested that 20% of police time is accounted for by mental illness issues, rising to 40% if the definition is widened to vulnerable people more generally. Research from the College of Policing[4] indicates that non-crime related incidents account for 83% of all ‘command and control’ calls that come into call centre staff.

The role of the police has also changed according to officers themselves. The attitudes of police officers towards the nature of their role changes fundamentally during their first four years in the police[5]. Officers were asked to discuss what they felt was the role of the police during four separate interviews over the course of the first four years in service. Their answers fell broadly into three categories.

 

  1. First, there were roles associated with crime such as apprehending offenders, making arrests, gathering evidence or crime reduction. After 5 weeks in the job, 35% of the statements made about the role of the police belonged to this first ‘crime’ category. However, after four years, this had fallen dramatically to just 9% of the statements made about the role of the police being related to crime.
  2. Second, there were wider public service sentiments about public protection, visibility and reassurance. After five weeks of working as police officers, 49% of statements about their role related to public protection and reassurance and then almost disappeared to only 6% after four years in the job.
  3. Third, there was the more specific role of ‘helping’ and safeguarding vulnerable people, whether this was due to their status as a victim of crime or in their inherent vulnerability due to their age or their mental ill-health. This was rarely raised as a role and function of the police when the new recruits were in training school and after five weeks in the job made up only 16% of the statements made. However, this steadily and then dramatically rose. The figure was 21% after six months in the job, 30% after a year in the job and then finally 85% after four years in the job.

These changes in perceptions of the police role also represented a source of frustration for police officers, many of whom had joined the service for the community service principles of helping others and ‘making a difference’. There was also a sense of disappointment at the perceived gap between the expectations of the job and the realities of the job which has the potential to produce a more cynical, suspicious, alienated officer who displays lower levels of empathy and higher levels of authoritarianism. Consideration should be given to:

        Police recruitment campaigns to ensure accuracy and a fair representation of a career in policing.

        Further attention be given to the ever-widening of the police role including a more strategic consideration of ancillary tasks that could be performed by other agencies.

 

  1. 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.

 

Links between procedural justice, organisational justice and perceptions of trust and fairness

There is ample research evidence to suggest that adopting the principles of procedural justice in interactions between the police and the public (a focus on the nature of the encounter in addition to the outcomes of the encounter and an emphasis on trust, neutrality, respect and voice) result in increased levels of both trust in the police and compliance and cooperation with the police[6]. However, it is also clear that these principles of procedural justice can also be adopted by organisations in their interactions between employers and employees. Often referred to as organisational justice, research has shown that officers who believe in the fairness of their organisation are more inclined to favour the policing principles associated with community policing and procedural justice[7] and more supportive of democratic policing[8]. Further, they are less likely to engage in misconduct, less likely to adhere to the protection of other officers through the ‘blue code of silence’[9] and less likely to support the use of force[10].

 

However, the numbers of officers who believe they are treated in an organisationally fair way is only 35%[11]. This is related to the 196% rise in the number of officers who voluntarily resigned from the police service in England and Wales between the year ending March 2012 and the year ending March 2022[12][13]. This voluntary resignation rate represented 0.86% of the total police officer workforce in March 2022 and rose to 2.45% of the total police officer workforce in the year ending March 2022. The lack of consistency in forces offering an exit interview and the lack of what has been described by leavers as a ‘meaningful exit interview’ means that there is very limited evidence on why the number of police officers voluntarily resigning from the police service is rising. More research is needed in this area. Existing and ongoing research (Charman and Tyson, University of Portsmouth) is indicating that officers are not resigning due to the often challenging and stressful occupational role of being a police officer but rather, overwhelmingly, because of internal, organisational issues. These are specifically around a culture of poor leadership, lack of promotion or progression opportunities and a lack of voice[14]. The police service needs to address the perceptions of a lack of organisational justice amongst employees:

 

        A review of the training needs and existing workloads of first line supervisors to ensure that officers are being appropriately managed and supported.

        A focus on ‘intention to stay’ discussions during appraisals to provide early indications of declining organisational commitment, a crucial point where intervention is still possible[15].

        Meaningful exit interviews to be conducted with all officers voluntarily resigning from the police service to become more of a learning organisation.

        Existing policies around flexible working arrangements to be better communicated and considered by line managers.

        A promotion process that allows for the voice and skills of officers to be recognised, placing a greater emphasis on previous experience rather than performance in an interview.

November 2022

 


[1] Gilmour, P. M. (2021). Exploring the barriers to policing financial crime. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 15(2), 1507-1521. https://doi.org/10.1093/police/paaa081

 

[2] National Crime Agency (2021). UKMPU Statistical Report.   https://missingpersons.police.uk/en-gb/resources/downloads/missing-persons-statistical-bulletins

[3] Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing Report (2013). https://amhp.org.uk/app/uploads/2017/08/independent_commission_on_mental_health_and_policing_main_report.pdf

[4] College of Policing (2013). Estimating demand on the police service. 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

[5] Charman (2017). Police Socialisation, Identity and Culture: Becoming Blue. London: Palgrave.

[6] Sunshine, J. and Tyler, T. (2003). The Role of Procedural Justice and Legitimacy in Shaping Public Support for Policing. Law and Society Review, 37(3), pp. 513-548.

[7] Bradford, B and Quinton, P. (2014). Self-legitimacy, Police Culture and Support for Democratic Policing in an English Constabulary. British Journal of Criminology, 54(6), pp.1023-1046.

[8] Trinkner, R., Tyler, T. and Goff, P. (2016). Justice from within: The relations between a procedurally just organizational climate and police organizational efficiency, endorsement of democratic policing, and officer well-being. Psychology, Public Policy and Law, 22(2), pp.158-172.

[9] Wolfe, S. E and Piquero, A. R. (2011). Organizational justice and police misconduct. Criminal Justice and Behaviour, 38(4), pp.332-353.

[10] Kyprianides, A., Bradford, B., Beale, M., Savigar-Shaw, L., Stott, C. and Radburn, M. (2022). Policing the COVID-19 pandemic: police officer well-being and commitment to democratic modes of policing. Policing and Society, 32(4) pp. 504-521.

[11] Bradford, B., Quinton, P., Myhill, A. and Porter, G. (2013) Why do ‘the law’ comply? Procedural justice, group identification and officer motivation in police organizations. European Journal of Criminology, 11(1) pp. 110-131.

[12] Home Office (2016). Police Workforce, England and Wales, 31 March 2016. Retrieved from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/544849/hosb0516-police-workforce.pdf

[13] Home Office (2012). Police Workforce, England and Wales, 31 March 2022. Retrieved from: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/police-workforce-england-and-wales-31-march-2022/police-workforce-england-and-wales-31-march-2022#promotions-joiners-and-leavers

[14] Charman, S. and Bennett, S. (2022). ‘Voluntary Resignations from the Police Service: the impact of organisational and occupational stressors on organisational commitment’, Policing and Society, 32, (2), 159-178.

[15] Ashforth, B. (2000). Role Transitions in Organizational Life: an Identity-Based Perspective, London: Taylor and Francis Group.