State of Policing: The Annual Assessment of Policing in England and Wales 2022
Presented to Parliament pursuant to section 54(4A) of the Police Act 1996
I was honoured to be appointed HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in April 2022. Having been a police officer for 36 years and an Inspector of Constabulary for 2, I am privileged to lead His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services.
This is my first annual report to the Secretary of State under section 54(4A) of the Police Act 1996. It contains my assessment of the effectiveness and efficiency of police forces in England and Wales, based on the inspections we carried out between 1 December 2021 and 31 March 2023.
To help form my assessment, I wrote to chief constables, police and crime commissioners and other interested parties to seek their views on the state of policing in England and Wales. I extend my thanks to everyone who replied and offered their thought-provoking insights. I would also like to thank my colleagues at His Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons and all the other public bodies we frequently work with. Finally, I express my profound gratitude to all inspectorate staff for their significant contributions to my assessment and for everything they do to support our inspections.
Changes at the inspectorate
On 31 March 2022, Sir Thomas Winsor’s term as HM Chief Inspector came to an end. Over the past ten years, the inspectorate under his leadership has made major contributions to promoting improvements in policing. I applaud Sir Tom’s achievements and thank him for his distinguished public service.
We have welcomed two assistant HM Inspectors on secondment. On 17 October 2022, Nicola Faulconbridge joined on a 12-month secondment from Kent Police. Nicola brings with her extensive and highly valuable police command experience. On 15 May 2023, Shantha Dickinson joined on a six-month secondment from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire & Rescue Service. Shantha brings a wealth of experience from the fire and rescue sector and is supporting our fire and rescue inspections as well as our wider work. I extend a warm welcome to both.
On 30 June 2023, HM Inspector Matt Parr will leave the inspectorate after nearly six years’ distinguished service. As the lead for many of our inspections, Matt has made significant contributions towards promoting improvements in policing and fire and rescue services. His dedicated public service has been outstanding and he will be greatly missed at the inspectorate. I wish him every success in the future.
In August 2023, I will be welcoming two new HM Inspectors: Michelle Skeer QPM, currently the Chief Constable of Cumbria Constabulary, and Lee Freeman KPM, currently the Chief Constable of Humberside Police. Both will bring a wealth of valuable experience. They will be warmly welcomed, and I greatly look forward to working with them.
Andy Cooke QPM DL
His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary
The police are a fundamental part of our society. They are there to keep us safe: safe on the streets, safe in our homes and safe online. When things go wrong, the police are often our first and only point of contact. In many cases, they are our service of last resort.
As an officer, I saw first-hand the professional, compassionate and courageous acts the police carry out on a daily basis and the positive difference they make to our communities. After more than three decades in public service, I am under no illusion about the enormous pressures which frontline officers and staff are operating under. Nor do I doubt their dedication.
However, the police are experiencing one of their biggest crises in living memory. I can’t recall a time when the relationship between the police and the public was more strained than it is now. The public’s trust and confidence are unacceptably low. The fundamental principle of policing by consent, upon which the service is built, is at risk.
Significant reductions in trust and confidence have been recorded. The perceived legitimacy of the police is central to the public’s willingness to co-operate with them and abide by the law. This drop in trust and confidence can make it harder for decent and honest police officers and staff, who comprise the vast majority of the service, to do their jobs. These conditions make it less attractive for people to stay in the service, let alone join it in the first place. Understandably, a substantial proportion of police officers don’t believe they are respected by the public.
There are some obvious and truly atrocious reasons for the decline in public trust and confidence. In 2021, a serving police officer abducted, raped and murdered Sarah Everard. In 2022, another serving police officer admitted to carrying out 85 sexual offences, including a shocking number of rapes. Staggeringly, in both cases, warning signs over several years were missed, and the officers managed to keep their jobs as police constables until they were finally brought to justice.
Unfortunately, I could cite many more examples from throughout England and Wales. Rarely does a day go by without another story of a disgraced police officer reaching the headlines.
can readily understand why it would be easy for the public, Parliament and the press to jump to the conclusion that the police service is full of bad people or that it can’t be trusted. Perception is equally as important as reality.
But the truth is far more complicated. The police service is a complex system operating within an even more complex criminal justice system (CJS), and there are widespread systemic failings in both. Some of these account for the present state of policing. In broad terms, these are:
The police aren’t always focusing on the issues that matter most to the public, and charge rates are far too low.
The police and the wider CJS aren’t getting the basics right, as shown through the withdrawal from neighbourhood policing.
Some critical elements of the police’s leadership and workforce arrangements need substantial reform.
But the service isn’t broken beyond repair. Undeniably, these failings will be extremely challenging to resolve. But they won’t be fixed solely by issuing glossy strategies, mission statements, visions, concordats or the like. They will be fixed through action.
The police need to focus on doing what matters most to benefit the communities they serve; these actions need to be highly visible. Not only do they need to show that they are committed to taking action today, tomorrow and next week but also that they will act in the long term too.
The police aren’t always focusing on the issues that matter the most to the public
The police are facing rising demand from the public and, quite simply, they aren’t keeping up. At best, people can be left dissatisfied; at worst, people can be left at risk. To a great extent, I empathise with the police; they have to contend with many factors beyond their control. They are operating with limited resources and are working within a CJS that is increasingly strained and inefficient.
However, these factors, even when combined, don’t sufficiently account for the marked decline in public confidence and satisfaction in policing; there are other powerful factors at play. The police should better target their resources, such as officers, staff and technology, at the issues that matter most to the public. Although some forces are better at this than others, a system-wide improvement is needed. And there needs to be greater clarity over what the police’s role in society is. For too long, they have strayed into doing the work of other services and not just at times of crisis when immediate intervention is needed.
Public perception and victim experience of the police
Victims are increasingly less satisfied with the way they are treated by the police and the wider CJS. In the 2021 Victim survey, the Victims’ Commissioner found that fewer than half of respondents felt the police had treated them fairly and respectfully. Many felt that the police hadn’t taken their reports seriously or taken enough action. Only 43 percent of respondents said, on the basis of their previous experiences of the CJS, they would report a crime again. It is deeply concerning that so many victims feel let down by the people who are meant to protect them and help bring offenders to justice.
Since 2014, charge rates have decreased by two-thirds, and the proportion of outcomes assigned an out-of-court disposal has more than halved. This isn’t to say that fewer crimes are being committed but that fewer criminals are being caught.