Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Brandon Lewis talks about expectations towards police reform.
Thank you for having me here today.
It’s relatively early days, but some of you may have seen me speak at the Police Superintendents conference earlier this month. This was my first speech to a police audience since I became the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service.
And I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to you today, particularly here at the College of Policing. I know you will be hearing from Alex later on the agenda, but it is already clear to me that there is a big role for the college in leading for policing on some of the most critical issues of the day.
Providing leadership for the sector: on standards; on professionalism; on diversity; and on performance – our focus today.
‘Expectations’ is the theme of this event and I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you about the government’s continuing expectations around police reform.
Achievements and expectations
You will have heard a consistent message over the last 6 years about the reform of policing and I know many of you will have played your role in delivering radical changes including:
- direct democratic accountability and transparency through the introduction of police and crime commissioners (PCCs)
- the introduction of the College of Policing itself as the professional body for everyone in policing
- cutting through bureaucracy, and stripping away national targets; which I will come back to in a moment
- collaborating between forces, blue light services and local partners to make savings, pool resources and provide a better service to the public
- opening up policing to the brightest and the best, developing the talent in policing and bringing in new skills and expertise at the same time
- whilst also investing in technology to tackle new forms of criminality, and transform business processes
And while meeting the challenge of reform, you have also managed to continue to cut crime and keep people safe: with crime down by well over a quarter since 2010.
You will also have heard Home Office ministers consistently stating that the Home Office no longer believes it runs policing.
That it is the job of PCCs and chief constables, as elected representatives and operational leaders, they are the ones to decide how best to deploy resources to tackle local police and crime priorities.
We will help where we can, saying we support local people to set the agenda and decide the priorities in their area is not the same thing as taking a vow of silence. We will continue to set the legislative and policy framework to support policing to do what it needs to. But policing itself is increasingly in the driving seat.
We believe - actually expect - that with continued reform the police can do even more:
- using the tools made available through legislation, or through the leadership provided by the College of Policing, to deliver workforce reform and to professionalise policing
- standardising and aggregating specialist capabilities while maintaining capacity and resilience
Working more closely with other local public sector organisations to manage demand and ensure the right response is provided by the right agency. And I will stand by you in making sure we take other agencies to task. We have made available the resources required, with a good deal for police funding, and overall police spending protected in real terms this year. We must still live within our means, but our expectation is that it will provide the opportunity for PCCs and chief constables to invest in transformation while redoubling efforts to drive efficiency, particularly through collaboration with other agencies.
Understanding and responding to new priorities
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 bit earlier this year. The change in the crimes we are seeing requires a change in response and the police need to work with others more effectively than ever to meet this challenge.
We are seeing, and I would expect to continue to see, an increase in reporting of hidden crimes towards the vulnerable (including sexual abuse, domestic abuse, FGM and forced marriage – let alone online fraud and cyber crime).
Forces need to think more ambitiously about the types of interventions and capabilities needed to transform their response to victims and, given that protecting the vulnerable is not the sole responsibility of the police, consider how they can work more effectively with partners to achieve this end.
Tackling cyber crime and crimes against the vulnerable requires 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.
Without these skilled people the most vulnerable will always be at risk. That is why we are looking to the college to lead on the creation and enforcement of recognised professional standards to support those working in key specialist areas.
Recognising professionalism needs to be absolutely at the heart of modern policing.
This 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.
And this focus on recognising and developing professionalism across policing is one which I care passionately about.
Because policing in the 21st century, by its very unique nature, should be one of the most exciting and attractive careers available - attracting the most talented and skilled recruits from across the whole of society.
Workforce reform is improving the attractiveness of policing as a profession and new recruitment initiatives, like Direct Entry and Police Now, are widening the talent pool and the range of prior experience available to policing. At the same time, the College of Policing is working to develop and recognise the professional work of those already in policing. To not just ensure that people realise how valued they are but to give them recognition that other organisations also value, outside policing.
To not just ensure the drive for professionalisation is about new recruits, but must also be about raising standards across all ranks and roles right through to retirement.
Everyone in policing should see themselves as a professional; from constables to the chief, to staff all across the country.
It means rank and file officers and staff feeling confident to challenge; open and fair competition for senior roles; empowering the frontline to make their own decisions; investing in skills and qualifications; embracing technology. These are areas where government wants to see policing develop.
The Home Office’s approach is underpinned by a belief that lasting transformation can only be successful if it is genuinely police led. To really thrive, policing needs to become a self-reforming sector. Through the localism agenda we have focused on giving you the powers to do what is best for your area; we should not be providing the answers too. The best solutions must come from the sector itself.
Police led initiatives such as Police Now, which was not the brainchild of anyone in the Home Office, but generated by 2 Met Police officers – a really good example, demonstrating that police-led innovation and transformation at its best comes from within.
As I say, I am not going to pretend that we have taken a vow of silence but while the Home Office can provide system leadership and support, the next stage of transformation will be led by police and crime commissioners and chief constables; working collectively in the interests of policing as a whole.
The Police Reform and Transformation Board – which is led by local police leaders, not the Home Office - will oversee delivery of national police reform projects. And it will also increasingly commission work to deliver against the national policing vision.
The board is organised around 5 key areas: from local policing to specialist capabilities.
The specialist capabilites strand is due to report shortly. I look forward to seeing the findings. Where it finds that efficiency and effectiveness could be improved – in other words, better public safety for less – by sharing and collaborating on certain capabilities, I hope that PCCs and chiefs will look carefully at those findings and the board itself will want to consider how the transformation funding could or indeed should support forces that are choosing to make those changes at pace.
Now through the police transformation fund, we have given police leaders the tools to support reform: investing in digitalisation; in creating a diverse and flexible workforce; and in new and more efficient capabilities to respond to changing crimes and threats that we see.
And we have already awarded £23 million to 14 ground-breaking projects that will drive the transformation of policing in England and Wales.
Those successful bids, from 10 forces and the College of Policing itself, include projects to support the transfer of digital crime scene images between forces, new technology to the child abuse image database, improved procurement and collaboration and fund a network of co-ordinators, analysts and prevention officers for the child sexual abuse national action plan.
And there will be some decisions on another round of bidding imminently.
Not all plain sailing
However, I do recognise there are tensions in all of this. How, if we want you to be innovative, do we create an environment that enables ‘failing fast’ (recognising not everything will work) as we all know failure in policing is so quickly pounced upon?
How do we ensure the focus on local needs doesn’t preclude PCCs and chief constables also taking a national leadership role and working together to address common issues? How do we embrace different choices on devolution and collaboration whilst also ensuring we’re all pulling in a common direction?
And what happens when there is a risk of other public services, under funding pressure, shrinking back to their core services and leaving the police to fill the gap, as the police so often selflessly do?
These are difficult questions but it has to be together that we work out the way forward, as the police in the UK are the best in the world and I want to see them continue to be.
PCCs driving local reform
PCCs clearly have a vital role in all this already, but I also believe that efforts to broaden their role could drive even greater local reform.
PCCs have the authority to look beyond policing to join up local criminal justice; to convene partners in the fight against crime; to improve services for victims and, yes, to save money for the taxpayer.
The Policing and Crime Bill, currently under discussion in the House of Lords, includes provisions to enable collaboration to go even 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 made.
And whilst police and fire collaboration is an essential element of locally-driven reform, it is equally important that the police have the skills and links to collaborate effectively with the ambulance service and other agencies.
Over the last 6 years PCCs and chief constables up and down the country have demonstrated that they can collaborate to make savings and pool resources to improve effectiveness without sacrificing local accountability and identity. If we get this right, we will deliver a better service to the public.
During the next 5 years PCCs and chief constables will need to go further: driving deeper collaboration; better sharing of back office services; and a more intelligent approach to where police capabilities sit working across agencies to provide a better public service.
Integrity and ethics
I’d now like to take a slightly wider view on expectations - looking not just at what is expected of the organisations in policing but of individuals.
I have already talked about professionalism. At the core of professionalism - and again demonstrating the pivotal role that the college has to play - is ethics and integrity.
With the code of ethics, the college has shaken up a system which had sometimes allowed unacceptable behaviours to go unchecked. Bringing moral standards back into focus and providing clear guidance on how to challenge improper behaviours, something everyone in the service I hope can embrace.
Because our model of policing by consent depends upon the co-operation and agreement of the public. As such it requires the utmost transparency, integrity and accountability.
The Policing and Crime Bill will overhaul the police complaints and discipline systems so that the handling of police complaints is customer focused, simple to understand and ensures that cases are dealt with quickly and effectively, not just for the benefit of the public (although that is clearly of paramount importance), but also for officers who have done nothing wrong and want closure quickly.
And it will strengthen protections for whistleblowers so the public can be reassured that those who wish to raise concerns from within forces will be more confident, and have the clear ability to do so.
As well as challenging behaviour that falls beneath the line we need to make time and remember to celebrate success, to make sure we recognise talent and – echoing the title of this conference – excellence in policing.
And great management and leadership, at all ranks and levels, are key to ensuring policing can sustain an open transparent and indeed progressive culture. One where officers and staff are working on their own professional initiative, rather than in pursuit of arbitrary targets.
Now many forces are drawing a line under the target-driven approaches of the past, and they’re thinking innovatively about moving away from using crime data as the only way of assessing performance to develop safety, harm and vulnerability indicators to assess local needs and set appropriate force priorities. We need to avoid arbitrary targets, which do not help serve the public, or give job satisfaction.
I know that the College of Policing is currently leading a piece of work – supported by the police transformation fund - to design a new police professional framework which will articulate the skills, standards and behaviours required. Alongside the fundamental changes to accreditation, which I mentioned earlier, and the college’s new education standards and qualifications framework, this will help accelerate the pace of change across all forces.
There are significant cultural barriers to change here and forces need practical advice and support. I welcome the collective effort that is being applied under the leadership of both the college and Chief Constable Steve Finnigan to develop a better performance framework for policing.
And I welcome the focus of this conference on finding more effective approaches to performance management. It is indeed heartening to see the constructive joint work that this event represents.
Because performance management is important – making the best use of available information to set priorities and to hold people to account in the right way, to ensure good delivery.
I will finally return to the theme of the conference. With the exam question set by the conference title, which is around ‘expectations’.
It has been said before that the Home Office no longer thinks it runs policing. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have expectations for it and we won’t take a vow of silence.
We expect great leadership, integrity, innovation and transformation.
We expect professionalism at all ranks and in all roles.
We are putting in place the tools for local leaders to drive further reform and we expect them to collectively rise to the challenge.
We expect high standards to be set and for chief officers and the college to work together to help the workforce meet them.
These are high expectations and this is a challenging agenda. What is clear is that the pace of reform over this Parliament will need to be urgent, radical and comprehensive.
But the benefits are equally clear - police leaders working confidently in collaboration with all partners to deliver the best services to local communities provided by a skilled, professional and representative workforce.
Thank you for giving me the chance to speak to you today.