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Policing in the 21st century: The Police Debate highlights [6XLrWj0zeiw]
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Policing in 2020: roundtable discussion

PA Consulting Group and Policy Exchange recently published a paper based on their joint Policing 2020 research project. In September 2011 PA hosted a round table discussion with senior police officers and other experts to debate the three main themes of the report: 

  • Mission. What are the police for?

  • Responsibilities. What will the police do?

  • Delivery and governance. How will policing be delivered and overseen?

Here we summarise some of many thought-provoking points raised.

Mission: what are the police for?

  • Most people are clear about what the general role of the police is; there is more doubt about whether the service has the resources to fulfil that role

  • There’s a danger of mission creep as the definition of crime gets wider – police are reluctant to refuse additional work, yet resources are finite

  • The mode as well as the mission needs to be considered – their job may be to reduce crime, but some approaches to doing so may be better undertaken e.g. by social services  

  • The description of 'mission' may need to be modified to cover the responsibilities of the wider policing family.


Responsibilities: what will the police do?

  • Some activities may come within the police’s mission but be beyond what they can deliver at any one time because of resource constraints

  • The police can take responsibility for an activity without actually carrying it out themselves – though a line still needs to be drawn, otherwise the police will be responsible for all society’s ills

  • Some activities that are felt not to need warranted police officers (such as crime scene guarding and tagging) are already outsourced by some forces. There is potential for this practice to be extended

  • There is a danger that if the police withdraw from some routine work with the public (such as foot patrols in the 1980s), public engagement is lost. However, these activities are a long-term investment

  • There is a benefit to having the police perform other activities that might be candidates for outsourcing – e.g. bail enforcement allows police to get to know repeat offenders

  • The police need to protect communities where there are high levels of organised crime, otherwise vigilante groups or the private sector will fill the vacuum

  • Demands are changing over time – e.g. car crime has diminished but other areas like cybercrime are growing; also crime will become increasingly international. Not all changes in demand can be predicted.


Delivery and governance: how will policing be delivered and overseen?

  • Discussion here focused on what skills and capabilities will need to be developed further within policing in the future

  • There are already processes in place to make leaders more commercially and financially aware and more outward looking, but they may not be moving fast enough

  • In the workforce as a whole, there will continue to be a mix of generalists and specialists. The right balance may be best determined at local level

  • New subject areas are gaining importance, e.g. the need to understand how social media contribute to or hide criminal activity

  • The new style of delivery will further require police forces to have the skills and capabilities to work with other agencies

  • There is a challenge here because as well as developing these new skills, and managing large changes, the police are also expected to increase their visibility on the street.

Many participants felt that a wider debate is needed to involve not only police and politicians, but also the public. This debate should address issues like what the police should be expected to do, what reduction of service is acceptable in order to reduce costs, and whether anyone outside the police should be allowed to exercise warranted powers.

If you would like to discuss any of these ideas or contribute your own,  please contact us now.

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