Police service has limited window of opportunity to repair public trust, says chief inspector

The police service is at a historic turning point – and there is a limited window of opportunity to repair public trust, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary has said.

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State of Policing – The annual assessment of Policing in England and Wales 2022

In his first annual assessment of policing in England and Wales, Andy Cooke has called for major reform, including new powers in law for the inspectors of constabulary. These include giving the chief inspector of constabulary power to give direction to a police force when there are significant concerns about public safety.

The chief inspector described widespread systemic failings in both the police and criminal justice system, both of which threaten to damage public trust in police. He has called for definitive action to be taken to address these failings, instead of “glossy strategies and mission statements” that do not bring about lasting change.

In the State of Policing 2022, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke has said:

  • the police need to prioritise the issues that matter most to the public;
  • forces are failing to get the basics right in investigation and responding to the public, and they need to concentrate on effective neighbourhood policing; and
  • critical elements of the police service’s leadership and workforce arrangements need substantial reform, such as more scrutiny on vetting and recruitment processes, including for chief officers.

The report makes three recommendations to the Government and chief constables, which include:

  • reviewing legislation to make HMICFRS’s remit of inspection clearer and clarifying its power to inspect policing functions delivered by police and crime commissioners;
  • re-establishing the role of the inspectors of constabulary in selecting and appointing police chief officers; and
  • new research into the deterrent value of stop and search and the causes of disproportionality in its use.

His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke said:

“I was a police officer for 36 years before I took this job. I am in no doubt of the dedication, bravery and commitment of the vast majority of police officers and staff. But there are clear and systemic failings throughout the police service in England and Wales and, thanks to a series of dreadful scandals, public trust in the police is hanging by a thread.

“I am calling for substantial reform to give the inspectors of constabulary more power to ensure we are able to do everything necessary to help police forces improve. Over the years, we have repeatedly called for change. There are only so many times we can say the same thing in different words – it is now time for the Government to bring in new legislation to strengthen our recommendations.

“Change needs to start at the top. Chief constables and police and crime commissioners need to do more to make sure their forces are efficient and to get a grip on their priorities. The police are not there to be the first port of call for people in mental health crisis or to uphold social justice. They are there to uphold the law.

“Forces need to show professionalism, get the basics right when it comes to investigating crime, and respond properly when someone dials 999. This is what matters most to the communities they serve and this is the way forward for the police to regain the public’s trust. The fundamental principle of policing by consent, upon which our police service is built, is at risk – and it is past time to act.”

Get the report

State of Policing – The annual assessment of Policing in England and Wales 2022