Speech given by Policing Minister Damian Green on Wednesday 20 November to ACPO's Leading Change In Policing conference
I want to start by saying that I am pleased to be here in a room full of not only chief officers and senior police staff, but also Police and Crime Commissioners, and other key partners who help the police cut crime.
I’m here to talk to you today about police reform, as we celebrate the first anniversary of Police and Crime Commissioners. I want to reflect on the journey so far and to look at some of the challenges ahead.
I want to thank you all for embracing reform. I know that change is never easy when it is this fundamental. The reforms that you have helped to implement have required you to work very differently.
Some thought the reforms could not be achieved, or not without damaging the ability of the police to cut crime. Some thought the plans were too ambitious to be delivered in the timescales we proposed. Some thought the introduction of PCCs was reckless. But the results are clear. We have seen a continuing fall in crime, delivered a radical reform agenda and forces are now much more in touch with local needs and priorities. As Tony Lloyd stated in his essay to Policy Exchange, “there has always been democratic oversight of policing in the UK”. The difference now is that it is visible, no longer in the shadows of unknown and unseen Police Authorities.
Our reforms speak for themselves. Wanting to shine a light on police performance, we have made the Inspectorate of Constabulary more independent. Wanting the highest standards of police integrity, we are strengthening the IPCC. We have set up the College of Policing to develop police professionalism and produce the evidence base for what works. We have created the National Crime Agency to lead the fight against serious and organised crime. And we gave communities a greater say in policing, by introducing Police and Crime Commissioners.
Police budgets have had to fall but more is being done with less, transformational reform has meant you have saved money while the service to the public improves. Recorded crime has fallen by more than ten per cent since the election, when most experts predicted it would go up.
There are some who argue that the crime figures do not reflect reality. The Crime Survey, an independent survey of some 35,000 members of the public, also shows that crime has fallen – to less than half the peak reached in 1995. You should rightfully take the credit for cutting crime.
It is vital that the public are able to trust crime statistics, which is why we transferred responsibility for publishing them to the Office for National Statistics.
It is of course crucial that crimes are recorded properly so that victims get the service they need.
Which is why we continue to work with HMIC to ensure the quality of police crime recording is high and I know the inspectorate is keeping a close eye on this issue, by undertaking a robust inspection this year, with a national thematic report to be published next autumn.
We have removed the top down targets that may have incentivised some to compromise the recording of crimes and instead we have focussed on professional judgement, and I will say a little more about the College later.
But of course as police leaders you have a key role in reinforcing the message to your officers that we and the public expect the highest standards of professionalism and integrity in all aspects of policing, including in how crime is recorded.
The fact that our reforms are working, is in large part down to the drive and dedication of the people in this room. A lot has been delivered; but police reform is not finished. Far from it. Strong leadership is about taking responsibility for the bad and the good.
I have always said that the true role of a policing minister is to act as a candid friend; it’s with this in mind that I want to take this opportunity to reflect on your contribution to police reform.
Police and Crime Commissioners
Firstly, I’d like to thank you for supporting your PCCs, and doing everything you can to ensure the successful delivery of their policing priorities.
I am sure that some people here today thought PCCs were a passing phase. But one year on, they should be able to see that they are here to stay. And we are clear, our intention is to develop, strengthen and expand their remit.
With your support, Police and Crime Commissioners have done a lot to be proud of. Just last week, I championed their successes at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ event to mark their one year anniversary.
Successes, such as, the outreach programme in Bedfordshire which has brought 140 student volunteers into the force and increased BME volunteering by a third; such as the process, in Sussex and Avon and Somerset, of streaming meetings, like local performance and accountability meetings with the Chief live over the web to engage the public; and successes such as, in my own force of Kent, where new police mobile contact points are being rolled out to facilitate 360 community visits to 180 locations each month.
I recognise that, for chief officers, being directly answerable to elected Police and Crime Commissioners has presented a new level of focused oversight, considerably more than what you experienced under the old system of oversight – such as it was – by police authorities.
I am clear - accountability stops with the democratically-elected representative, the Police and Crime Commissioner. And while I am not going to get into the rights and wrongs of every decision by a PCC, or the method by which they hold their chief constable to account more generally, the powers which allow a PCC to perform this public accountability function are fundamental to the reform. I do not want to approve or criticise any of the decisions taken by individual PCCs, but the fact that they have been prepared to exercise those powers must be a positive sign.
PCCs are here to stay, and I encourage you to continue to support them as they strive to reflect the needs of your communities.
Role of the College of Policing
The new model of policing is focussed on accountability and professionalism; PCCs offer public accountability, and the College is focussed on professionalism, so I am adamant that these two bodies have an absolutely central role to play in the new policing landscape.
Chiefs will have a key role in supporting the College of Policing, for example by sending your brightest and best to support the work to professionalise policing and build public trust.
The College’s role is straightforward, and as transformational as any of our other police reforms: it is there to provide professional standards for policing and to help police officers and staff meet those standards throughout their careers. It is to seek out best practice, as supported by firmly-established evidence, and to encourage officers to adopt it. It is to show leadership in supporting the organisational change necessary to embrace modern technology. And it is to ensure that officers and staff understand and comply with the highest ethical standards.
You are no doubt reflecting on the recent review of the Association of Chief Police Officers that was published last week by the APCC.
Much of ACPO’s work has now passed to the College.
As we saw last month, with the code of ethics, the media will increasingly, and rightly, look to the College to speak boldly on how it believes the police should respond to pressing public concerns. In the past, they would have looked to ACPO.
The creation of the College ends ACPO’s monopoly on deciding the future of policing.
We established the College to be an inclusive organisation. The College comprises the whole of policing – PCCs, police officers, police staff, special constables and volunteers. They all now have a stake in the future of policing. Effective leadership is central to the transformational change that the policing model is going through, but such change cannot be led solely by a few at the top of the office, it needs to be accepted and delivered by all. It is therefore a significant departure from the norm that for the first time all of those involved in policing will be more involved in work to set standards, identify good practice and promote the highest ethical standards. They have seats on the Board and they have seats on the College’s Professional Committee.
The College is a more publicly accountable organisation. It is not only the professionals that have a stake in policing. So, now, do the public. The public are represented on the board of the College –we’ve seen public consultations on guidance for handling investigations into child sexual exploitation and child abuse, and public consultations on the ethical standards to which police officers should uphold. In future, we’ll see some of the standards the College sets subject to parliamentary scrutiny.
So in conclusion the review of ACPO is right to focus so heavily on the role of the College, I support that.
The College is for all of policing. Being ‘for all’ includes the leadership of the police and all of you in this room.
I welcome the way you support your professional body not just as chief officers but as National Business Leads. The College I know has launched a programme to review and simplify the work of the National Leads and I would strongly urge all of you, PCCs and Chiefs to play a full and constructive role in this important work.
It stands to reason that the College should play a fundamental role in ensuring standards are developed and maintained and that is why on 24 October it launched the first-ever Code of Ethics for the police for public consultation. I would like to hear from you about what you are doing in your forces to ensure integrity in policing throughout the ranks.
Press interest in the Code serves to emphasise the degree of public interest in policing. We should embrace this level of public scrutiny and interest: our reforms are about engaging the public, so we should all welcome them as active participants in this debate.
It’s fair to say that the reputation of the police has taken something of a battering recently. I know you are all working hard to restore this reputation, and the code of ethics is a major part of doing just that.
When it comes to creating that confidence, there are 43 people who can do far more than the government, the Home Office and the PCC; 43 people who can ensure that the Code of Ethics makes a real impact on all police forces – that is the job of the Chief Constable. That is your job. This is the crucial time for Chiefs to step forward and lead by example. When the Independent Police Complaints Commission cast doubts on the internal disciplinary investigations into the treatment of Andrew Mitchell in Sutton Coldfield last year I’m sure, like many of you, the public welcomed Alex Marshall’s clear statement at HASC that “it is clear that the behaviour of the officers concerned fell below the standard that would be expected of police officers. I think it is absolutely right that the chief constables apologised and I think the officers concerned should apologise as well”.
We now need to see chiefs living the standards they have endorsed in the Code of Ethics, visibly championing ethical behaviour, rewarding those who challenge unacceptable behaviour, and embedding a change of culture in their forces.
I call on everyone here to support the College, as I know you are doing, in their vital work on national policing.
I want also to talk about direct entry. The issue of choosing our police leaders is of the highest importance to the future of the police. A career in policing should be attractive to the most talented in our society. The three direct entry schemes the College will launch will offer the opportunity to widen the talent pool from where we attract our police officers - this is about bringing some great people into policing. What organisation would not be improved by new thinking and new skills?
As well as direct entry I agree with Lynne Owens that we need to do more to manage the existing talent within the police; ensuring those with potential receive relevant training to help them progress and giving them opportunities for secondments. We will work with the College to explore what the barriers are to secondments, and I am committed to doing all we can to break down those barriers. I have heard many people question whether people will want to apply under direct entry. Recent recruitment campaigns for Constables have shown just how attractive a career in policing remains. Now imagine what the interest will be when we open recruitment for superintendents. The College will be targeting their marketing at successful professionals. Applicants will be put through a demanding selection process similar to the senior police national assessment centre. To be clear, I do not expect successful applicants just to demonstrate academic achievement. They must be willing and able to manage all aspects of practical policing. I am completely convinced that the process will bring forward great people –and I would challenge you not to dismiss talented people before you have even had the chance to meet them.
I have also heard people say that you cannot teach people how to effectively manage risk in a short period. I am not belittling the challenge that this presents. But I believe UK policing is a world leader in managing risk. I do believe that a world class organisation should be able, with care and consideration, to teach high calibre people how to manage high risk situations over an 18 month period. I am confident in your collective ability to do this.
The next stage of reform: transforming the front line
So far, the changes made by this Government already amount to the biggest change in policing since the great modernising Home Secretary Robert Peel created the very concept of policing by consent.
But the job is not yet done. The next stage of our reform programme needs to be even more radical and will be even more important in shaping policing for the future. The next stage is about changing the way that each and every officer, PCSO and member of police staff, carry out their jobs on a daily basis to ensure that they are much more effective in achieving our principle aim of cutting crime.
To do this I know many of you are already working to give your forces the tools they need to transform what they do on the frontline. At the Digital Pathfinders’ conference last week, I was pleased to see police officers leading the way. Thirty forces have signed up to take on the challenge of digitising their way of working to deliver more efficient and intelligent crime fighting. In today’s society, we need a police force that not only draws upon the very best evidence of what works to cut crime and makes use of the very best policing tactics and techniques, but one which is also technologically advanced. And that advancement just doesn’t mean the best physical tools – although these will of course play a significant part – but crucially also a change in culture and ways of working to reflect the modern policing environment.
To conclude - when we consider the system that this government inherited in 2010 it is clear that police reform was vital; policing had become disconnected from the public.
Our reforms have been, and will continue to be, focused on improving police transparency and accountability and, crucially, public engagement. All our reforms to date have tackled these issues, and we have come a long way, with several major achievements. But there is more to do.
Significant challenges lie ahead, but significant challenges also lie behind us. We have come a long way over the last three years.
I am determined to deliver on what the public deserve, and to equip officers with the professionalism, skills, and trust that they need to protect the public and fight crime.