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Licence to 'practice policing' and regional HR units urged by review

Handing back office work to regional units and a five-year licence to practice are among radical proposals for policing.

The long-awaited Strategic Review of Policing has set out 56 recommendations urging radical reform to police culture, skills and training and organisational structure.  

Among proposals in the Police Foundation’s report is creating regional support units which would manage back office functions including IT, HR and payroll to save millions of pounds by ending duplication.

Launching the review’s final report, Sir Michael Barber said: “Policing in this country is at a crossroads and it cannot stand still whilst the world changes so quickly around it.

"Now is the moment to move forward quickly on the path of reform. The warning signs if we do nothing are flashing red and we ignore them at our peril.  

He added: “This report represents the most comprehensive review of policing for a generation and sets out an agenda for fundamental change.”

The foundation wants to tackle culture by creating a Licence to Practice for police officers, renewed every five years and administered by the College of Policing.

Officers would have to demonstrate professional development through achieving relevant qualifications, passing an interview or presenting a portfolio of activities and achievements. Any police officer who fails this assessment could receive further support including mentoring.

The review took contributions 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.

Long-standing concerns over the shortage of detective could be tackled by expanding direct entry schemes to attract people from other sectors and a new pay supplement to attract more officers into investigatory roles.  

The pay bonus already exists but has had little take-up. In 2019 the government introduced time-limited targeted payments of up to £4,000 a year to help attract and retain officers in hard to fill roles. Chief Constables also have flexibility to make payments of up to £5,000 a year, in addition to basic pay, to recruit into specialist roles.

But the Home Office pay submission to the Police Remuneration Review Board revealed only 14 forces have used this option and made special payments to officers.

More difficult to crack will be reducing demand driven by non-policing issues. The review revealed around three million ‘investigation hours’ are dedicated to missing persons reports every year, the equivalent of 1,562 full time police officers per year or the number of police officers needed for the whole of North Yorkshire. 

Some of the advice on changing business functions is familiar to public service professionals. The Gershon Review into local government, ordered by then-Chancellor Gordon Brown in 2004, claimed huge efficiencies could be made by sharing back office functions.

But getting public sector organisations to work together proved challenging and many of the perceived efficiencies failed to materialise. Some of the big service contracts ended up in courts due to non-performance.

Other proposals include moving the 10 Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCU) to the National Crime Agency plus improved training for sergeants and inspectors so they are equipped to tackle poor conduct.

There was also a call for more work to improve diversity. At the current pace of change it will take another 58 years (until 2079) for the police service to achieve a workforce that is representative of England and Wales.

Other measures include:

But the review’s lead warned doing nothing can no longer b an option.

Sir Michael Barber said: "Everyone recognises the need to shift the odds, which too often are stacked in favour of the criminal. We need a modern police service fit for the future which is at the cutting edge of technology and training. And we need it urgently.

"I believe the will is there and that the talented police officers who work tirelessly for the public would be the strongest champions of change.” 

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