Policing 2020, a joint research project by PA Consulting Group and Policy Exchange, examines the challenges for policing in England and Wales in the run-up to 2020. Senior police offices and other policing experts gathered at an event hosted by PA to debate the main themes of the Policing 2020 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 on the future of policing raised.
Most people are clear about what the general role of the police is; there is more doubt about whether the police service has the resources to fulfil that role
There’s a danger of mission creep for the police as the definition of crime gets wider – police are reluctant to refuse additional work, yet resources are finite
The mode of policing as well as the mission for policing needs to be considered – the police's job may be to reduce crime, but some approaches to doing so may be better undertaken by other bodies e.g. by social services
The description of the police's 'mission' may need to be modified to cover the responsibilities of the wider policing family.
Some activities may come within the police’s mission but be beyond what they can deliver at any one time because of constraints on police resources
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 police forces already outsource activities that are felt not to need warranted police officers (such as crime scene guarding and tagging). 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 on the police are changing over time – e.g. car crime has diminished but other areas like cybercrime are growing; also, in future, crime will become increasingly international. Not all changes in demand for policing can be predicted.
Discussion here focused on what skills and capabilities will require further development within policing in the future
There are already processes in place to make police leaders more commercially and financially aware and more outward looking, but they may not be moving fast enough
In the policing 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 require police forces to have the skills and capabilities to work more 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 on the future of policing 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 policing costs, and whether anyone outside the police should be allowed to exercise warranted powers.