On 20th May Theresa May, the Home Secretary, told the Police Federation that they were ‘crying wolf’ over the impact of cuts to policing. Her argument is the fall in reported crime negates their claim that policing is being damaged. Perhaps she conveniently forgot to mention that Kent police’s detection of burglaries has halved. One of their Assistant Chief Constables, Rob Price said that the way in which the figures are recorded made them look worse. Perhaps Theresa May also conveniently forgot to mention that changes in the way crime figures are recorded can make them look better.
We all know that the way you measure performance can make it look worse – or better, depending on what argument you wish to make. Though have you noticed the trend for senior leaders to take the credit for improved figures and blame poorer figures on ‘the method of recording’? If there is an increase in crime, there follows a quick justification that ‘improved recording means more victims are willing to come forward’, or similar and if crime falls it is due to ‘improved efficiency’.
Is it just me that is fed up of this trite nonsense?
I believe most police officers recognise the need to be more efficient and cost effective. From my experience with the police, following the death of my son in a road traffic crash, it is clear that front-line officers want to do a good job. It appears they are prevented from doing so due to increased policies and processes and a shortage of resources. This results in them over promising and under delivering.
Unfortunately, the Home Secretary appears too focused on the cost of policing and appears cynical of the police wanting to do a good job. This reminds me of the quote from Oscar Wilde in one of his novels, “a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
She knows the cost of policing but does not understand the value of front-line officers in comparison to other elements she is not willing to address.
If she was serious about police reform then she would start with the structure and governance. In December 2014, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe spoke about the need to review police governance – and he has not been listened to. No politician is willing to look at cuts at the top of the police service because, in 2012, David Cameron and Theresa May introduced Police Crime Commissioners (PCCs). The role of these PCCs is to hold Chief Constables to account for the performance of their force’s area, officers and staff. What you won’t be told is that every PCC has built their own empire of paid staff, with a third of them costing more than the Police Authorities they replaced.
Something else she conveniently forgets to mention is the cost of electing these PCCs was £80 million – and the elections at their end of term will cost another £50 million!
Keeping 43 PCCs can only be justified if England and Wales keeps 43 Chief Constables, all supported by Deputy Chief Constables and Assistant Chief Constables; together with their staff officers and secretaries.
The Police Federation claims 17,000 police officers have left since 2010. Yet not one senior leadership role has gone. Therefore, each senior police officer has fewer staff to lead and the expression ‘too many chiefs and not enough indians’ springs to mind.
At the end of last year the government announced that UK police services would have their budgets cut by another 5%; meaning that they will need to make even more efficiency savings.
At the beginning of December Lincolnshire Police Chief Constable, Neil Rhodes, said that his force would have to cut 20% of front-line officers and that his force would be ‘unsustainable’ by 2018. This followed the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester Police, Tony Lloyd, expressing concern in September that GMP would be reduced to 6,000 by 2017 – and no longer able to function. At about the same time the Chief Constable of Cumbria, Jerry Graham, was saying similar.
What would a reduction in the number of Chief Officer teams save? In September 2014 the Surrey PCC, Kevin Hurley, estimated the ‘waste of having 43 police services’ at £2 billion! The kind of reduction Sir Bernard Hogan Howe recommends would save well over £1 billion - not including the potential sales of the unnecessary police headquarters that house all these teams.
How many front-line police officers would this pay for? So perhaps it is time the Police Federation asked the Home Secretary about the things she has conveniently forgotten to mention.
It seems that the only people ‘crying wolf’ are David Cameron and Theresa May. They have created a monster that they are reticent to dismantle and can you imagine either of them having the strength of leadership to stand in the House of Commons and admit that, after all the fuss made and money spent on introducing forty three Police and Crime Commissioners, they now only need about nine of them? No, it’s apparently easier to ignore the facts; waste millions of pounds and ‘save face’.
by Alan Wingrove. Alan is a Business and Leadership Coach at Blue Lion Coaching. Until 2005 he was a serving police officer, leaving as a Chief Superintendent. Although Alan describes himself as ‘an antique, as regards policing’ he keeps at the cutting edge of leadership and performance, in both organisations and individuals.