FORK IN THE ROAD
Rethinking police demand
Why is police demand changing ?
The pressures and demands facing modern policing are changing in ways which have profound implications for future policing policy, not least with respect to how the police are funded. In our latest publication, we set out our theory that there are two major reasons for this.
As the country’s 24/7 emergency service, policing has arguably been a victim of its capacity and preparedness to respond to those demands, which has in turn stimulated public expectations in ways not previously envisaged.
Secondly, the demands facing policing are broader. There is clear evidence that ‘non-crime demand’ is sucking up more resources than was the case a decade ago; the police are increasingly being forced to pick up the pieces arising from various manifestations of social dysfunction, from mental illness to missing children.
Should it all be about crime?
There are two possible conclusions one can draw from these trends. The first is that policing has suffered from a form of ‘mission-creep’ – and that what is required is for policing to shed responsibility for things falling outside of its ‘core’ role of cutting crime. Crest Advisory categorically rejects this idea
In our view, it is essential to recognise that cases involving public safety, welfare and the protection of the vulnerable represent a legitimate and worthy use of police time, rather than being viewed as a form of ‘mission-creep’. Indeed it can be argued that these categories of ‘non-crime’ demand are absolutely central to the policing mission, as the only 24-hour public service able to respond to emergencies, with the capacity to deploy coercive force. The public poll we have carried out for this report suggests the public agrees.
The second conclusion – the one we advocate – is that the police need to improve their ability to tackle the causes of demand (rather than managing the symptoms), which in turn requires the police to work more effectively as part of a wider system of public services. To tackle complex local problems, such as a growth in the numbers of missing children, the police need to work across organisational borders, collaborating with care homes, health professionals, social workers and community organisations. Many forces already do this – but it is not yet systematic.
Multi-agency working as demand changes
For certain offence types, multi-agency working is increasing. In domestic violence, Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs) are a key part of the machinery to coordinate responses with police forces making referrals in large numbers of cases.
Forced marriage, honour-based violence and female genital mutilation are also crimes which occur within a family or partnership setting and this brings added complexity and risk management issues for investigating officers. And the number of offences reported often masks the time and complexity of the investigation that follows to secure evidence and provide the necessary reassurance and protection for victims to secure a prosecution (if practical) as well the safety of the victim and other family members. Importantly, forces are now working with other partners to look at intelligence and data held by each of them to try to identify ‘hidden’ demand and possible offences.
Shrinking budgets and controversial choices
The current situation – with the police facing rising demand alongside shrinking budgets - risks creating a crisis of legitimacy for policing. With more ‘demand’ than the police are capable of responding to, it is inevitable that Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners will need to make tough choices about how to allocate scarce resources.
Some of these choices are bound to be controversial and unpopular. Yet currently, the basis for these choices remains unclear and under-discussed. All the public see is a service that appears to be shrinking. This urgently needs to be addressed.
Crest Advisory’s latest report, published this week, sets out a whole system view to assess the trends and volumes of both crime and non-crime demands and a new model policing leaders can use to inform local decision making. We will set out a series of practical policy options for enabling the police to manage demand in a more strategic way.