Policing Minister speaks at 2016 PSAEW conference

Policing Minister Brandon Lewis addresses audience at the 2016 Police Superintendents Association of England & Wales (PSAEW) conference.

Brandon Lewis, Minister for Policing and the Fire Service

Thank you for the invitation to be here with you today.

The Home Secretary was clear in her message to the conference how much she values the association and welcomes the long-standing and positive dialogue that you have had with government.

I am reassured that this is a first for both of us, Gavin - your first conference as the association’s president and my first speech to a police audience since I became the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you today.

I am fortunate to have already met a number of frontline officers, chief constables and police and crime commissioners (PCCs) during the last few weeks. And I am delighted that my first speech is to the Police Superintendents’ Association – an organisation that is respected across policing and politics.

You are respected because you have the operational experience, leadership and the background to be able to tell chief officers, PCCs, and the government about the challenges, and the successes that you see in policing every day and the challenges and opportunities there are in front of us.

And you are respected because you have a proven history of working constructively to help improve policing for officers and for the public.

Now, the association, as Gavin rightly outlined, will not always agree with government policies and equally the government will not always agree with the association’s views, but I strongly think that it is vital that both parties continue to bring constructive challenge to the debate, and that your expertise and professional judgement are harnessed in the future.

The Prime Minister was clear in her first speech to your conference in 2010, and has continued to be ever since, that she respects the work of the police and the contribution of the Superintendents’ Association itself. I equally value your contribution and both I and the Home Secretary are determined to make sure we continue to work with you to deliver our shared goal of helping policing be the best it can be.

Finishing the job of police reform

You have heard a consistent message over the last 6 years about reform of policing and you have helped deliver radical changes, including:

  • direct democratic accountability and transparency through the introduction of police and crime commissioners
  • the introduction of the College of Policing as the professional body for everyone in policing
  • cutting through bureaucracy, and stripping away national targets
  • police leaders up and down the country collaborating to make savings, pool resources and provide a better service to the public

And whilst meeting the challenge of reform, you have cut crime and continued to keep people safe with crime down by well over a quarter since 2010. That is a huge credit to the entire police force.

But our manifesto commitment last year was very clear. This government will finish the job of police reform.

There are significant challenges ahead:

  • we need to have a self-reforming police service
  • developing the PCC model ready for challenges ahead
  • creating a self-reforming police service, to deliver transformation
  • developing the PCC model
  • reforming the integrity system and powers
  • professionalising policing by creating a flexible and diverse workforce, exactly the point Gavin outlined

And we have made available the resources to do that, with a good deal for police funding, and overall police spending protected in real terms this year. Through the police transformation fund, we have given police leaders the tools to support reform and to ensure that you have got the capabilities needed to be able to respond to the changing nature of crime. I accept Gavin’s point on the changing nature of crime and the challenges facing policing.

In return, everyone in policing needs to work quickly to seize that opportunity, to deal with the crimes that are affecting people now and into the future. The Modern Crime Prevention Strategy set out the context of that challenge just a few months ago earlier this year. The response will require the police and others to work together to beat these threats.

Criminals do not hesitate, we know they do not hesitate, to take the chances offered by new technology, when it comes to committing fraud or targeting the vulnerable. So we should not hesitate in tackling them. The funding is there and I would urge PCCs, chief constables and yourselves to bring forward your ideas and get policing ahead of where the criminals are.

As superintendents, I believe that you have a key role in ensuring the success of all these efforts. This needs to be about genuine transformation. Transformation that makes policing work for this generation and the next.


Now it won’t surprise you, given my current role and background, that I see police and fire collaboration as an essential element of locally-driven reform. But I also think it is equally important that the police have the skills and links to collaborate effectively with the ambulance service and other agencies.

The Policing and Crime Bill - this is currently before Parliament at the moment and goes into the House of Lords next week, includes provisions to enable collaboration to go further. It introduces a new duty on the emergency services to collaborate with one another and will enable PCCs to take responsibility for the governance of fire and rescue services where a strong local case is clear and made.

Even within the existing framework, there is potential for chief constables and PCCs to work together more closely for the benefit of all, both themselves, fire services and other agencies. They need to come together in a coherent way to identify and work together on those issues that can be best tackled across force boundaries. We recently published the second release of police procurement data, which in itself increases accountability to the public and it highlights the savings that can be made through collaboration. But we can still go further and deliver greater savings for the taxpayer on procurement.

One of the best examples of joint working is the new emergency services network which will replace the existing airwave mobile radio system. Once it is fully in place the new network will not only save the emergency services around £1 million every day but will also provide improvements in public safety and operational efficiency, through smarter use of that digital technology.

For me, collaboration is about public services helping and empowering each other to play their respective part more effectively, and some forces do this well but we can all do better. We should all look at what we can do better today and better tomorrow.

It is vital for the police to integrate more effectively and consistently with other public services, and with communities in order to better protect the public and prevent harm. Now of course, it is important to catch the perpetrator once a crime is committed. But we all know that it is better still to prevent that harm from happening in the first place and this can only be achieved by all public services working together far more effectively.

Mental health and policing

And the government will continue to play its role in supporting you when you raise concerns on issues like this. The superintendents have been at the forefront of addressing the challenge for example responding to people with mental illness. We have seen how important it is for police officers to have the skills to be able to identify when a person has mental health problems and might need appropriate medical care.

The issues you raised have helped us to ensure that forces – through the College of Policing – have access to the best possible mental health training.

But I do not think it is right or sensible to expect police officers to have to take full responsibility for caring for people with mental health problems. In fact, on my first visit as Policing Minister I saw for myself first-hand the very real problems created by people suffering from mental health issues being kept in police cells and this issue must be tackled.

This is why the Home Office is changing legislation to ban police stations being used as places of safety for under 18s, and to make it a genuine exception for adults. On the 23 August the government announced the first wave of funding to increase the capacity of health based places of safety in England. £6 million went to 41 projects across 10 police force areas, and we have invited other areas to submit bids for a further wave of funding to increase the number and range of health based alternatives.

Change is still needed to improve the overall ‘system response’ for people at crisis point, and we at the Home Office remain fully signed up to the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat. Much of the concordat’s success has been about local delivery and I congratulate PCCs and police forces who are playing their full part in taking this forward.

Future vision for policing

We want to make sure we play our part in supporting the police to tackle these challenges. And we will continue to do so where it is right for the government to act.

But we are clear and I will always be clear that it is the police, and not the Home Office that runs policing. It is right that chief constables and PCCs – local police leaders who know areas and services best – decide how to deploy resources, because they, more than anyone, know what is needed to respond to crime and policing priorities locally. And you have an important role to play, both as an association nationally and amongst your members in forces, to develop those plans and priorities.

I am particularly taken with your priority, Gavin, to develop a longer-term future policing vision. I believe there have been important steps in the right direction but there is more to do; establishing the Police Reform and Transformation Board, and developing the reform vision for 2020 from within policing, supported by the work of the College of Policing.

But it is important to build on the opportunities presented by the transformation fund, to become a self-reforming sector that is horizon scanning for the long term. So I welcome your challenge for policing to start to think out as far as 2050.

As Gavin rightly said, I think having a constant view forward is the right thing to be doing.

Police professionalism

That kind of long term vision can be a very powerful inspiration, both to those already within the police and to those looking to join in future.

I have been struck when speaking to some officers that they do not feel valued and appreciate change does generate concern. I want to say to you today that your service is valued. And that good policing is vital to our society. I believe policing has an exciting future as an attractive, accessible and rewarding profession- my friends who have been in the force say it is changing but would do it again- attracting the most talented and skilled recruits from a diverse range of backgrounds.

The college, through its secondment and development programmes, is working to provide existing police leaders with access to wider experiences and more career flexibility, while new recruitment initiatives, like Direct Entry and Police Now, which I’ve seen for myself, are widening the talent pool and range of prior experience in the year ahead.

It is a huge credit to you and your members that, despite any initial reservations, you have worked with us to make Direct Entry a success. And of course Police Now was not the brainchild of central government. It was generated by 2 police officers – demonstrating police innovation at its best comes from within.

Earlier in the summer I visited, on my first day in the job, the Police Now summer academy and I was deeply impressed by the quality and energy of the new recruits I met and the enthusiasm and drive of the organisation.

As superintendents, you have been essential to the delivery of the College of Policing’s leadership review and the proposals for an education and qualification framework.

This framework, which is receiving funding from the Police Transformation Fund, will underpin professionalism in policing – creating nationally accredited qualifications which recognise the skills built through a career in policing, and offering a map to those joining through new entry routes.

Professionalisation must also be about raising standards across all ranks and all roles. It is my goal for everyone in policing to see themselves as a professional; from the volunteer right the way through to the chief.

But where the rank and file feel afraid to challenge, that is not professionalism.

Where competition for senior roles is based on who you know and not what you know, that is not professionalism.

And where we fail to empower the frontline to make their own decisions; fail to invest in skills and qualifications; fail to embrace and develop with technology, that is not professionalism.

But progress is being made, and you should all be proud of your role in that leading work. The code of ethics is helping to shake up a system which had sometimes allowed unacceptable behaviours to go unchecked. It is bringing moral standards back into focus and providing clear guidance on how to challenge improper behaviours, something everyone in the service can embrace.

The code is one step which is proving that the modern police force embraces and values professionalism. This is your profession; the college is your professional body and it is vital that you continue to take a leading role in that process and help policing to continue to go further still.

As staff and officers enter the police, from a variety of routes, line managers must be given the necessary skills, not just for policing but also to lead their staff. It should be a given that in every force, there will be a competent and well-supported workforce. All of you here today have a vital role to play in nurturing and developing the staff that you lead.

Any culture which is based on targets and a lack of performance management needs to be challenged and your Association has been at the heart of work in this area and you should be very proud of that, and I and everyone in government thanks you for that. Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis’ review into the use of police targets has made a key contribution here. And I trust you will continue to provide that kind of strong, independent-minded leadership.

This is all the more important as crime changes. So too must the policing response. Tackling cyber-crime and crimes against vulnerable takes people who can challenge perceptions and support the victims of crime. Without these skills we would never have discovered the depth and extent of child sexual abuse or modern slavery, and without these skilled people the most vulnerable will always be at risk. The most vulnerable rely on you and your teams.

The college will lead on the creation and enforcement of recognised professional standards. This will ensure the highest standards for specialist investigators, including for domestic abuse and child sexual abuse. These standards must be as consistently applied in protecting the vulnerable as they already are in other critical areas, like firearms and public order. But it is the work that you do every single day which makes a difference for everyone in our country.


And the government will play our part to support the continued professionalisation of policing. We want you to come to us with constructive and well-considered ideas. We may not always agree, and yes challenge us when needed, but rest assured we will always listen.

I am confident that, working together, we can realise the goal of a skilled, professional and representative police force which is equipped with the tools it needs to tackle the challenges of modern crime and ultimately and importantly support its victims.

Published 6 September 2016