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Strategic review forced to respond to big events in policing

A major review into policing to be published tomorrow had to adapt to the issues raised by the Sarah Everard murder its lead has said

Ahead of publication, the Police Foundation’s Director, Rick Muir, revealed the review had been impacted by the huge events including the response to COVID-19.

He warned change is the only way to repair public confidence which has been tested by a series of high-profile cases including the murder of Sarah Everard.

He told Police Oracle: “We did adapt. We definitely did respond to those events. They were too big not to.

“We started back in 2018. We decided the time was right for a strategic review. Everything that’s happened since then has reinforced the need for it.”

He warned: “There is something of a crisis of confidence out there. It may be not surprising but it reinforces our view that we needed to do this.”

The review, led by Sir Michael Barber, will say that without radical changes, forces will be unable to meet the evolving crime threat which is increasingly enabled by technology.

Critical issues will be raised over how the 43 force model can deal more effectively with cross border crime – including neighbouring forces – and the rise of online offending including fraud.

It draws on evidence from 160 submissions from organisations including the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, the Home Office, National Crime Agency, Police Superintendents’ Association and the Police Federation.

It will make recommendations on ethics, future threats and whether specialist investigations need to be carried out by traditional officers.

The report is set to challenge whether 43 forces can tackle both physical crime in local communities and organised crime networks based outside the UK.

A serving officer who was a contributor to the report, said the biggest stumbling block will be persuading the government to come up with the investment needed to make it a reality.

They told Police Oracle: “The report could be a game-changer. It’s a seismic shift that’s needed. If we could take the politics out of policing that would be a massive start. But it’s reliant on serious funding to make it happen - reports are supposed to do something.”

But they also questioned whether creating another national agency at the top of policing would work. They argued Police Scotland is still working through issues from merging local forces.

They said: “Building collaborations is key. Everyone has gone back to a local model. They weren’t getting the coverage they needed – even NPAS [aircraft support] is feeling it. There are major offences – like online fraud – that need to be taken on but the bedrock is local policing.”

Convincing a cash-strapped workforce to sign up would also be an issue: “Cops are going to a local force to be a local copper, not to travel up the country to do bits of work. They know the offender profiles and they know the patch.”

And other local issues need addressing: “Patterns of offending have changed: the night time economy is now 24-7 with offending greater than in day time and rural crime is rife. The other part of this is we are only as strong as other local agencies – and most of those still close at 5pm.”

But the review will also urge policing to think about long-term issues rather than try to improve the immediate situation.

Mr Muir said: “We were really clear that that we didn’t want to deal with that by responding only to immediate concerns. We wanted for someone to read it in 20 years’ time and for them to find something that still resonates.”

Mr Muir said the organisations involved in the review are on board: “The response we’ve had as we approach publication has been really strong. We’ve thought about what kind of police service do we want and how do we get there?”

He added: “People will have a viewpoint on where we come down on issues. We fully expect that. But we’ve had really good engagement throughout. But there is an agreement that now is the time to do something like this.”

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