‘Profound and far-reaching’ policing reform urgently needed, says Chief Inspector of Constabulary

Profound and far-reaching aspects of police reform are needed, or services face unacceptable compromises in quality of service levels of public safety, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary has warned.

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State of Policing: The Annual Assessment of Policing in England and Wales 2018

In his annual assessment of policing in England and Wales, Sir Thomas Winsor said most police forces were performing well, and praised the police for their integrity and bravery.

But he also called on leaders in police forces and institutions to make bold and long-term decisions to improve policing.

He said there was continued controversy about the 43-force structure of policing in England and Wales, with a need for the police service to function as part of a single law enforcement system.

Other areas highlighted for reform included:

  • consideration of new mandatory standards to prevent inefficiency and ineffectiveness in policing;
  • enactment of proposed legislation to strengthen the role of the Forensic Science Regulator;
  • multi-year financial settlements for the most efficient police forces, to provide them with certainty, stability and predictability; and
  • longer-term investment in technology, such as body-worn video, fully-functional hand-held mobile devices, facial recognition and artificial intelligence.

Urging reform, Sir Thomas said that the “wider criminal justice system is dysfunctional and defective”. He said rehabilitation needed to be taken more seriously, with people released from prisons guaranteed proper support in dealing with benefits and finance, and finding work and accommodation.

On police pressures, he added:

“There are indications that some forces are straining under significant pressure as they try to meet growing complex and high-risk demand with weakened resources.”

Sir Thomas also backed calls for the government to introduce criminal liability for senior managers in tech companies who allow harmful materials on their websites, and the campaign for ‘Sammy’s Law’ – which aims to give people a defence to crimes their abusers force them to commit.

On online abuse and radicalisation, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary said:

“Most children are now more at risk in their own bedrooms than they are on the streets. This type of offending is not just about child sexual abuse and fraud, but radicalisation, harassment and stalking too.”

Writing in the State of Policing 2018 report, Sir Thomas concluded:

“I believe that some profound and far-reaching aspects of police reform are called for. For these reforms to take place, leaders in central government, PCCs and chief constables will all need to make bold, long-term decisions.

“If they don’t, the windspeed of police reform will fall to a flutter, leaving the police service increasingly unable to meet the demands it faces. The inevitable legacy of such an approach would be unacceptable compromises in both the quality of service the police can offer the public and the level of public safety and security the police can uphold.

“But if the reforms I have set out in my assessment are carried out, competently, comprehensively and with resolve, they will secure major improvements in police effectiveness and efficiency. The widening gap…between the public’s needs and the police’s capacity and capability, will begin to narrow. And the police service will be better able to adapt to face the demands of today and tomorrow, to the great benefit of all of us.”

Get the report

State of Policing: The Annual Assessment of Policing in England and Wales 2018


  1. The State of Policing report is Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary’s annual report to the Secretary of State under section 54(4A) of the Police Act 1996.
  2. The report also includes an analysis of force management statements, self-assessments which all chief constables need to submit to HMICFRS each year.
  3. HMICFRS is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing and fire and rescue services in the public interest. It assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and fire and rescue services. HMICFRS inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies. It also inspects all 45 fire and rescue services in England.
  4. For further information, HMICFRS’s press office can be contacted from 9:00am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
  5. HMICFRS’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217729.