Been a while since I wrote a blog, didn’t seem a lot of point with Mrs May in charge as nothing was going to change whilst she held the power & controlled the purse strings.
That has all changed now Boris leads the country and has made key appointments in the pivotal positions in government. The previous Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who did sound like he understood the crisis facing policing, has moved into the key role of chancellor and now has control over budgets. The very first speech made by Boris, (everyone seems to prefer being on first name terms with our latest PM – wouldn’t have tried that with his predecessor!) and he opened with a declaration about increasing police numbers and investing in the health service. Clearly with my professional background and experience I will focus on the policing headline, but I think it is equally important to put as much money and attention into improving our NHS. In respect of care of people in the community and dealing with mental health issues, then any failings or lack of resources from the NHS are likely to increase demand on the next and most readily available organisation, the police service. It is as vital for policing that our health services are improved as it is for the NHS themselves as demand on policing is one key aspect that needs urgently addressing.
It has been widely reported that whilst Mrs May was home secretary & then PM and over the last 9 years, that 20,000 police officer posts were cut. It is therefore a relatively easy `quick fix` for our latest PM to announce that 20,000 Police officers will be recruited within the next three years. Those are the simple figures that 20,000 were cut and so 20,000 are needed and in simplistic terms policing is back where it was and almost as if Mrs May was never in charge – if only that were the case, in respect of Mrs May and for just 20,000 being the answer.
The policing crisis caused by the government, and in my view, there is some collective responsibility albeit it was largely driven by Mrs May, will take much more than just returning 20,000 Police officer posts. Over the same period and to meet the reducing budgets imposed on Police forces, there were around 15,000 to 20,000 police staff posts also cut. Many of those roles are essential in policing so serving officers have been taken away from operational roles to perform these support roles. The actual cuts to the overall police establishment was around 40,000 employees which includes both serving officers and support staff. Easy maths to work out that although 20,000 will be very welcomed then it only goes halfway to restoring policing to where it was. When you also factor in that demand has increased over the last 9 years and policing now deals with far more `social` type calls than ever before and other crimes have increased including cyber offences, human trafficking and violent crime. In short, more has been demanded from far less and many have given their all in trying to maintain the reputation of British Policing as being the best in the world.
Boris, his new home secretary and the policing minister plus whoever they choose to consult with in dealing with this crisis have a very difficult task ahead of them. Recruiting 20,000 police officers is achievable within three years but in my view that isn’t the key issue facing the group assembled to address this task.
The real key issue is the retention of experienced staff, both police officers and support staff as they are the ones who will assist and guide those 20,000 in their careers. The real crisis facing policing is the fact that many Police officers are leaving before they complete their full service and taking their training and experience with them into the private sector. The very first job of any group is to begin to make policing a vocation again for those currently serving. To review and increase the pay and working conditions and for those in parliament from every party, to support those working for law and order in the UK. Training a new Police recruit from first day of being attested as an officer to the first day on the street takes approximately 21 weeks. At that point they know their basic legislative powers around arrest, basic crime scene investigation and stop and search but putting theory into practice in real life situations can be very different. The role plays they are assessed on during training are as realistic as possible, but nothing can really prepare you for your first actual arrest, interview or investigation. Those 20,000 new recruits will be found and sworn in during the next three years, but they need police officers with knowledge and experience waiting for them when they reach the streets.
For me, that is the one priority and first point that needs addressing by those tasked in doing so. Look at retaining experience by making it a financial option to remain a police officer once you have completed your pensionable service. There was a scheme called `30+` where officers received their full pension but then remained in the police service beyond their 30 years. I would take a long look at a similar scheme to ensure Policing retains its most valuable asset, its staff. I would also consider a return to work scheme for those who have left the police service within a reasonable time period but again make it financially viable. I know of too many former officers who now earn more money outside Policing but still use the knowledge, training and experience that they gained from being police officers.
Policing was once famously accused of `crying wolf` by the previous prime minister although she later refuted that she ever said those words, despite being played the recording. Evidentially, I would suggest that her case was proved but, in any event, it has now been proved unequivocally and beyond reasonable doubt that Policing was not crying wolf.
Yes Prime Minister, the main job is now yours and so is the task to save a profession and vocation referred to by many of the holders of that office as `the job` and one that the majority just want to be able to do and be given the resources, finances and support to do so.