‘perfect storm’ on policing horizon

A combination of fewer officers and staff, reduced budgets, new threats and increasing traditional crime will create a ‘perfect storm’ for policing, the Policing Minister will be told at the annual conference of senior operational police leaders.

Chief Superintendent Gavin Thomas, President of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, will highlight how policing services across the country are now routinely based on fewer people working more hours and days, an unsustainable position in the face of increasing demand.

The head of the body that represents senior operational police officers will set out his message to new Policing Minister Nick Hurd MP at the Association’s annual conference in Warwickshire on 4.9.2017.

He will urge the Minister and police leaders to review, with the public, what policing should and should not be expected to do, and make decisions on funding and resources based on this.

Ch Supt Thomas will say:

“I suggest we have a perfect storm developing, comprised of fewer resources, reduced public services, new threats, and a worrying increase in some types of traditional crime.

“If the model for delivering policing services in the future is fewer people, working longer, each doing ever more, then I suggest that model is fundamentally flawed.

“Events and the demands on the service have demonstrated a clear case for an open, honest and transparent debate and review with government, local authorities, Police and Crime Commissioners, and of course the public.

“Otherwise we are being driven by not by the need to provide the best possible policing service that meets the needs of the public, but primarily by the need to save money.”

His warning comes after a survey of the Association’s members found only 27% had enough resources to do their job properly.

The Association’s Personal Resilience Survey gives an overall picture of Superintending ranks under increasing demand and pressure, almost unable ever to have a day off.

It found:

  • Half (50%) are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and 27% symptoms of depression
  • Four-fifths (82%) say their role has an excessive depth and breadth of responsibility, leading to excessive hours
  • 72% have not taken all their annual leave in the past year and 77% did not take all their rest days
  • 94% said they had worked or been contactable when on leave in the past 12 months.

The Association wants to see six measures brought in to improve health and welfare among Superintending ranks and the wider service:

  • All policing employers to provide annual health screening in the next 12 months
  • Responsibilities at Superintendent level to be evenly and fairly distributed
  • Superintendents and Chief Superintendents to have the necessary training, skills, equipment and support to perform the role they are asked to do effectively
  • Wellbeing of staff to be adopted as a consistent theme in all HMIC inspections processes and management statements
  • Chief Constables to comprehensively scope the level of demand against resource at Superintendent level
  • Every force to have a system for accurately recording hours worked and proper monitoring of those hours

Chief Supt Thomas said:

“It is frankly unacceptable that the senior operational leaders in policing are under so much pressure that a quarter of them have signs of depression.

“These are people leading huge commands, some bigger than entire forces. These are people carrying responsibility for public safety, protecting the most vulnerable, for countering terrorism, for running firearms operations.

“It is not a healthy position for the service to be in, and it definitely not in the interests of the public.”