In January, the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) announced an ambitious inquiry into the future of policing in the UK. Its wide-ranging terms of reference require MPs on the committee to examine whether policing has the capability and capacity to keep people safe in the future. The call for written evidence closed a month ago and this week MPs began hearing oral evidence.
So, who has engaged with this opportunity to contribute to the debate about current and future crime trends, the changing demands on the police service, public expectations of policing and how it is funded and, equally, who hasn’t?
HASC has so far published written evidence from 70 organisations and individuals (declaration of interest: Crest is among them, and you can read more about our submission here) and the breakdown is quite illuminating.
To date, 17 police and crime commissioners (PCCs) or elected mayors have put in written evidence along with the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC). Nine chief constables have made submissions, mostly from forces whose PCCs did not. The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) have put in evidence supplemented by separate submissions from a number of portfolio leads, e.g. digital policing and organised crime. The National Crime Agency and Home Office have put in evidence, as have policing staff bodies such as the Superintendents Association, the Police Federation of England and Wales and the Disabled Police Association.
Notable by their (current) absence from the HASC publication schedule, however, are the College of Policing, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (this may be a delay in publishing their submissions and oral evidence must surely come in due course?). Further afield, eight think tanks, NGOs and campaign groups, e.g. Big Brother Watch, have contributed along with eight universities or academics and five private sector organisations (including us).
What is particularly striking, however, is the lack of engagement from outside the core policing sector. Only three major charities (Barnardo’s, Age UK and The Children’s Society) and just four trade associations or trades unions have had evidence published. Local government and its umbrella bodies are also apparently silent, despite across-the-board increases in the police precept element of council tax.
Furthermore, the British Medical Association (BMA) appears to be the only organisation from the healthcare sector to have submitted evidence. Given the inquiry is specifically examining how well equipped policing is to cope with non-operational demands “such as mental health crisis”, the absence of any input from the NHS or other organisations which focus on mental health (or drugs or alcohol or housing or homelessness) is disappointing. It is widely believed that cuts to these sectors have led to increased demand on police in recent years as ‘the service of last resort’. A meaningful contribution from organisations within them would be timely and valued by the committee, by PCCs, chiefs and others in policing, surely.
At the first oral evidence session, Dr Rick Muir, Director of the Police Foundation think tank, told the committee: “Policing needs to be much more deeply integrated with other services at a local level”. Getting these other services to show more interest in the one which picks up their pieces for them would be a good start.