Police need to get back to fighting crime instead of worrying about 'causes' as public trust is 'hanging by a thread', warns watchdog
• Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke said police should focus on crime
• Charging rates have fallen by two thirds since 2014 while crime has risen
By REBECCA CAMBER CRIME AND SECURITY EDITOR FOR THE DAILY MAIL
PUBLISHED: 00:23, 9 June 2023 | UPDATED: 00:23, 9 June 2023
Police need to get back to catching criminals instead of worrying about 'causes' as public trust is 'hanging by a thread', the Chief Inspector of Constabulary said in a hard-hitting report.
In his first annual analysis into the state of policing since taking the job, Andy Cooke said officers 'aren't there to champion social change or take sides'.
He warned forces have been 'dragged into political debates' and distracted by pursuing 'non-crime hate incidents'. The former Merseyside Chief Constable believes 'the police service has lost its discipline' over the last decade.
And he called yesterday for the return of 'immaculately polished boots, ties or cravats and custodian helmets' as the public need to see professionalism if they are to have confidence in officers.
'If the police want to be seen as professional, they need to look professional. Forces should make sure the right standards of appearance, as well as behaviour, are maintained,' he said.
'If they can't get the standards of their appearance right, it raises wider questions about their standards.'
The Chief Inspector suggested the police service is at 'a historic turning point – and there is a limited window of opportunity to repair public trust'. 'The fundamental principle of policing by consent, upon which the service is built, is at risk,' he said. 'Public confidence hangs by a thread.'
Mr Cooke highlighted the collapse in charging rates which have dropped by two thirds since 2014, while police-recorded crime rose last year to the highest level since records began. 'Fewer criminals are being caught,' he said.
'The police aren't always focusing on the issues that matter most to the public, and charge rates are far too low. Too often, people offend with apparent impunity, and the police aren't targeting them consistently.' He added: '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.'
Mr Cooke described how victims face a 'postcode lottery' and 'in too many cases, lose confidence in the criminal justice system and withdraw from the process entirely.'
He called for 'definitive action', saying chief constables won't fix things by 'issuing glossy strategies, mission statements, visions, concordats or the like'.
'The police must uphold the law as it is written. They aren't there to champion social change or take sides. This includes a requirement to preserve all rights, including the right to free speech,' he said. Mr Cooke is now calling for new legal powers for inspectors so they can order failing forces to improve when there are serious concerns.
Yesterday he urged Home Secretary Suella Braverman to give inspectors a say on the vetting and recruitment of chief officers and the ability to scrutinise the work of police and crime commissioners. Mr Cooke argues that in too many instances, chief constables are ignoring recommendations from the watchdog, but the new powers would mean forces would be legally required to comply.
In his first annual analysis into the state of policing since taking the job, Andy Cooke (pictured) said officers 'aren't there to champion social change or take sides'
He insisted policing was not 'broken beyond repair', but concluded: 'It needs to reset its compass and do so quickly; the police can and must do better.' In a rare positive note, the chief inspector praised forces for their commitment to attend every home burglary, which the Daily Mail revealed yesterday.
Andy Marsh, head of the College of Policing, said: 'The report illustrates the need for policing to produce action not words. Public trust has been eroded, and it can only be re-established by a service which focuses on catching criminals and fighting crime.'
National Police Chiefs' Council chairman Gavin Stephens, added: 'Policing must continue to do more to earn back the trust and confidence of the public.'