It is a privilege to be here and to see so many friends, people I’ve met before, some I haven’t met but I’m sure I will over the next few years.
It’s great to see the collaboration already working successfully together - chief constables, police and crime commissioners and fire chiefs and other leaders from all across law enforcement here for the conference.
Where we are currently gathered is an area which holds significant symbolic importance for British policing. In 1829 when the then Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police Force, it had its first headquarters just up the road from here at the original Scotland Yard. At first, the 1000 new constables were treated with some suspicion. But in just 10 years, crime had gone down and the force had become respected and admired as a model for policing across, not just the country, but the world. The Victorian example reminds us that while reform is not always easy, it can bring benefits to all.
And today I want to talk to you about some of the steps we need to take to ensure British policing remains world- leading. Because whilst we have seen significant reform, there remains much still to do.
More reform is needed
Since 2010 we’ve seen the most radical programme of police reform in decades. Back then, accountability was diffuse, governance opaque and productivity held back by targets.
To help fix this, the previous Home Secretary, now Prime Minister, introduced a number of reforms including:
And you have responded to these changes with innovation and determination. Crime fell, and it is now down by well over a quarter since June 2010 according to the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales. The survey shows crime is at historically low levels, with over 3 million fewer crimes a year than in June 2010. Families and communities are safer as a result.
But whilst we should celebrate this, it does not mean that the pace of reform should slow. When the Prime Minister gave me the job of Home Secretary, she asked me to finish the job of police reform and that is exactly what I intend to do. But I need your help. Your action.
Because importantly, not only does the Home Office no longer think that it runs policing. It actually doesn’t – you do. So while the government can – and will – make suggestions for improvements, you are the leaders we look to who can take reform forward. You have the confidence of the men and women who serve under you - or who elected you - to decide the direction of travel for the police. You can - and should - make a real difference to policing all around the country.
But to do so, workforce reform is essential to meet the challenges of modern policing. This means both helping the brightest and the best to get into policing, but also nurturing existing talent.
And there is plenty.
New people, new skills
On my first full day as Home Secretary I attended the Police Bravery Awards. The national winner was PC Sean Cannon, who saved a family from a burning house after seeing smoke and hearing cries while attending an unrelated incident nearby. He told how he kept on going back into that house each time he was told there was another family member in there. It was inspiring to hear his story. And to me, Sean represents the very best of British policing – brave, bold and committed. And world-class police services like ours need more Seans.
But you must recognise that talent does not only come from within police ranks. It can be found elsewhere too, in both the public and the private sector. Many of you in the audience today are PCCs – and some of you do not come from a policing background. And yet, as I’m sure you’ll agree, you’ve contributed enormously to policing.
And we should all welcome recruitment initiatives like Direct Entry and the Police Now graduate scheme which aim to bring talented people into the police. That should be seen as a good thing, and I am sure the best police leaders agree wholeheartedly.
So far there have been 2 cohorts of Direct Entry and this year - the scheme has been widened to include the rank of inspector, meaning there will be 25 direct entrants starting their training next week. And to all of them I say ‘welcome aboard’! Help us help you to help the public.
These men and women bring expertise from the worlds of finance, the civil service, the military and business. Expertise that can really help us all make a difference.
Women such as Maggie Blyth, one of the new superintendents. She has had a phenomenal career prior to joining the police, working with vulnerable people.
She started her professional life in probation, moving on to the Youth Justice Board where she introduced youth justice qualifications for staff and led inquiries into child custodial deaths. She has been an independent chair of safeguarding children boards, she has published 5 volumes relating to child protection and youth justice and she has also worked across the UK and internationally to develop services. Now policing gets to benefit from her substantial expertise.
So I strongly believe that there is much to be gained from bringing new talent into policing. We must do so.
And, yet, there were 6 people who passed the superintendent assessment centre in the summer who were not offered posts. These people have been assessed as having superintendent level skills – in fact they have been assessed as having the potential to reach chief officer ranks. But yet they have not been offered jobs. And that is policing’s loss.
And let me be clear, the intention of Direct Entry is not to take away top jobs from existing police or to put them out of reach of eligible candidates within forces. Far from it.
There are currently 800 superintendents in England and Wales but only 8 people graduated from the first intake of Direct Entry earlier this year and 5 are on track to graduate next year. So we are a very long way away from a tipping point.
Now, you know the government’s stance on police targets – and there will be no target for Direct Entry.
But I urge you to see it for what it is - an opportunity to bring in talented leaders from different sectors. And recruiting people from other professions can benefit the fire service as much as it can benefit the police - that much is clear to me.
Because the challenges our emergency services face are ever changing and we need to make sure that we have the right staff to deal with new types of challenges as and when they present themselves. If this means bringing leaders in from other sectors then let’s not only be prepared to do it - let’s actually do it.
Last month I announced that £5 million of police transformation funding would be used to significantly expand Police Now.
This investment will extend the scheme to almost half of all forces and fund it until 2018. Progress, I believe. And I know that as you all wish to attract the brightest and the best that you will be fully behind this.
Professionalise the existing workforce
But while we want new, bright, ambitious people to join the police, I am also clear that we already have incredibly talented people working in all areas of policing. These people need the right support and development to reach their potential, deliver the very best for the public and continue to cut crime.
Which is why I want to see greater professionalism across all ranks and roles. A culture change. This means I want officers and staff to feel confident about challenging their superiors. And those leaders being challenged need to be open to it in order to ensure the best decisions are truly made.
We need to see real transparency and fair competition in senior roles. And we need to see frontline officers truly empowered to make their own decisions, and supported by excellent management. And those officers are the public face of policing. The ones people think of when they think of the police.
So we must make sure that they can access the best skills, support, and qualifications available. That the public thinks of them as the highly skilled professionals they become. In essence, we want policing to recognise its employees as professionals – holding them to clear ethical and performance standards, as you would see in the other professional disciplines. No organisation can achieve this without professional support.
So the College of Policing will ensure the right framework is in place on which to build a modern, flexible and effective policing profession.
At the Police Federation Conference in May earlier this year, the previous Home Secretary announced that we would work with the College of Policing to accredit key roles within the service. Establishing a system in which officers would need a licence to practise in certain crucial areas, including working with the most vulnerable.
Great progress is being made by the college, working in concert with my officials, to develop these arrangements and I hope to be able to say more about this in the near future.
And I want policing to be an exciting, dynamic profession where great opportunities exist regardless of your background.
Because a truly professional police service is also one which embraces diversity. And when it comes to diversity, some forces have been making significant improvements.
Take the example of the Metropolitan Police. Recently I attended the passing out parade at the new Hendon training facility. The officers I met reflected the diversity of the capital and brought skills and experiences from a wide range of backgrounds.
Over the last year, the Metropolitan Police has increased the proportion of BME recruits from 16% to 25%. And they are not the only force making such positive strides. Greater Manchester, West Midlands and South Wales Police have all increased diversity in recruitment.
We have made it easier than ever before for the public to hold their PCC and chief constable to account over how diverse their force is compared to the local population. Police.uk now gives access to diversity data for officers and police staff. It also gives information about the level of progression of BME and female officers.And while it is difficult to collect robust data for officers who share other protected characteristics, this government is clear that they are equally important.
Nationally, there are now a greater proportion of black and minority ethnic officers than ever before which is excellent news. And yet, despite these strides forward, there is still more to be done.
For example, the proportion of women and BME officers at chief officer rank remains disproportionately low. And it matters when forces do not reflect the communities that they serve.
Because, whilst as a black man you are now less likely to be stopped and searched than you were just a few years ago, you are still 6 times more likely to be stopped and searched than if you were white.
And while the government can set expectations through our commitment to increasing diversity in police recruitment and making policing a profession where everyone has a fair chance, we are clear that it is local police leaders working with the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs’ Council who are best placed to make this a reality.
This includes police and crime commissioners holding police chiefs to account and taking an active role in ensuring their force is representative of the communities it serves, as well as helping to progress and retain officers from under-represented groups. This reform isn’t just a ‘nice to have’. It is essential.
Emergency services collaboration
But reform is not just about people, it is about ways of working too. I am clear that better joint working between our emergency services can strengthen them, deliver significant savings to the taxpayer and, most importantly, enable them to better protect the public.
Let me give you an example of why this is important: on one occasion, police forensics in Kent were looking for a murder weapon that they believed to be thrown into a fast flowing river. It could have taken days for police divers to find the evidence but by using the cameras owned by the fire service, the police were able to locate the weapon in less than a day.
And there are many other examples. Hampshire’s H3 project has successfully integrated police, fire and county council back office functions which has given staff greater career opportunities and also improved communication between all 3 partners ably working together. To top it all off, it has saved £4 million a year. Savings that can be reinvested in frontline services.
And this isn’t just about saving money, collaboration can save lives too. The London Ambulance Service and Metropolitan Police are part of a first responder scheme which means that the first available emergency service attends the scene of a cardiac arrest. This can be the difference between life and death. In London, 9% of people who have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital survive. But for patients who receive defibrillation before the ambulance arrives, the survival rate jumps to over 58%.
So I want to see collaboration go further and faster – not for some ideological reason, but because it gets results. This is why the Policing and Crime Bill, which is currently before Parliament, introduces a raft of measures to enable closer collaboration between local emergency services.
This includes a duty for police, fire and rescue and emergency ambulance services to collaborate where doing so would improve their efficiency or effectiveness, and enabling PCCs to take on responsibility for the governance of the fire and rescue service in their area where a local case has been made.
My Policing and Fire Minister, Brandon Lewis, will speak in more detail about this tomorrow and I look forward to working with you, as local leaders to identify opportunities to support necessary, urgent collaboration.
But reform should not just centre on capabilities or staff. Reform is also about re-focusing police efforts to confront the challenges of the 21st century.
20 years ago, online fraud, cyber-crime, revenge porn and trolling were not crimes everyone had heard of. Now, they are. More victims are reporting domestic violence and child sexual abuse than before. Modern slavery has a higher profile. And crimes like these pose challenges for law enforcement.
As HMIC’s annual all-force inspections and rolling programme of child protection inspections show, the police can and must do more when it comes to dealing with and protecting vulnerable people.
Let me be crystal clear: for me as Home Secretary, protecting the vulnerable is a personal priority and I want this to be a priority for you too. That is why we have enacted the Modern Slavery Act to deal with the criminals who trade in human lives and invested £8.5 million through the police transformation fund to help our law enforcement agencies bring the perpetrators of modern slavery to justice. That is why we have strengthened laws which defend those children who are at risk of FGM.
But we need to do more to tackle the drivers of crime, to intervene earlier in the abuse cycle, including doing more to deter perpetrators, reduce reoffending and continue to improve the protection for victims and to bring those offenders to justice.
The police and social services must work much more closely and cohesively together to protect vulnerable children, especially from the sort of grooming and sexual exploitation that came to light in Rotherham and other towns and cities across the UK. Protecting women and girls from violence and supporting the survivors of sexual violence is also vital.
Police leaders and police and crime commissioners – those of you in this room today - must work with local authorities and the NHS to ensure that specialist FGM and forced marriage units as well as refuges and rape support centres are effectively delivering support and protection to those in need.
And PCCs, you have a key role to play in protecting the vulnerable as you have the power and the budget to determine local victims’ services.
We must make sure that the police professionals dealing with the vulnerable are of the highest calibre and that they are receiving the support they need. That is the least they deserve.
That is why the college’s work to develop a licence to practice is so important. It will ensure the highest standards are consistently applied to those leading on the protection of the vulnerable as they already are in other critical areas, like firearms and public order.
Through these arrangements, the college will set the national standards expected and ensure all forces and professionals have access to the right knowledge, training and professional development.
Money for reform
Now I know many of you will have sat and listened to me today and will be saying: ‘great, but will she put her money where her mouth is’. To that I say: ‘we have and we will’. So I urge you to take advantage of the police transformation funding that is available to you.
As I have made clear, the Home Office does not run policing – you do and it is time for you to put your foot on the gas. It is up to you, working together in the interests of policing as a whole, to decide where reform is needed.
There is money available in the police transformation fund for projects that will drive the transformation of policing in England and Wales. In August I awarded £23 million to projects and I will announce further awards from round 2 soon. We want bids about how to genuinely reform the police.
I have outlined the areas where I think there could be improvement but you must use your judgement to decide where the challenges in policing lie and where the money should be spent.
Reforms will make policing more effective and professional than ever before and build - together - on the successes that we have achieved since 2010. If we get them right, they will benefit families and communities across the country as well as the police and the fire service.
I hope that you will use your inspiring leadership skills to work with me to deliver these changes. Because together – I have no doubt – we can change policing for the better.