Stimulating a sea-change in policing

The police service must change further in order to meet the needs of the public within a climate of continuing budget pressures, according to a group of experts from across the policing spectrum.

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Reshaping policing for the public

The National Debate Advisory Group which has considered the issues surrounding policing in austerity is made up of experts from across policing, including six chief constables, a police and crime commissioner, the College of Policing, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and from bodies representing all ranks of police officers and staff.

A short discussion document detailing options to be considered in the national debate has been produced through two national events and public consultation through polling and focus groups. This document is intended to encourage the next stage of the debate, with further views sought from the police service, interested parties and the public.

Speaking on behalf of the Group, Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary Steve Finnigan said:

“Crime may be down but the demands on the police service continue to rise. We know that the police service needs to change so that we can best meet the evolving needs of the public within a climate of continuing budget pressures.

“It is vital that we get this right: we are standing at the start of the greatest sea-change in the way that we operate policing services in a generation.

“We’re not tearing up the rule book, nor are we proposing solutions at this stage, as we’re calling for further detailed discussion. However, we’ve got together to suggest options for an ambitious programme of reform which need to be properly debated so that there is broad agreement on the most pressing and immediate reforms by the Autumn.”

During the course of the last year, the Group developed a series of principles which reflect the police’s mission to prevent crime and protect the public which must underpin any future change, as described in the discussion document. The principles emphasise a preventative approach to policing and the protection of the public, enhancing capability and close co-operative working with other public services locally.

A possible new framework for policing should include:

  • accessible local front-line services, including 24/7 response policing, safeguarding, neighbourhood policing and local investigation;
  • collaborative front-line services and partnerships;
  • specialist capabilities consolidated into cross-force functions, operating to national standards;
  • different models of cross-force working;
  • harnessing economies of scale for support functions; and
  • continued robust local accountability.

Any new framework must support the flow of information and intelligence to connect between neighbourhoods, cross-force units, and national and international policing efforts.

Strong political and managerial leadership, both nationally and locally, will be required to make changes across England and Wales and will need the Home Office to provide the expertise to establish partnerships and provide cross-cutting impetus to achieve broad agreement for the next phase of this work by the end of the year.

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Reshaping policing for the public


  1. The members of the group who have offered their professional expertise during the course of the process have been:
    • Alex Marshall – Chief Executive of the College of Policing
    • Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police
    • Zoë Billingham – HM Inspector of Constabulary
    • Steve Finnigan – Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary
    • Neil Rhodes – Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police
    • Paddy Tipping – Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire
    • Sara Thornton – Chair of National Police Chiefs’ Council
    • Steve White – Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales
    • Irene Curtis and Gavin Thomas – President and Vice-President of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales
    • Francis Habgood – Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police
    • Ben Priestley – National Officer, UNISON
    • Nigel Brook – Assistant Chief Officer, West Yorkshire Police.
  2. The National Debate Advisory Group first met in November 2014 to support a national debate on the future of policing, as recommended in HMIC’s report ‘Policing in Austerity: Meeting the Challenge’.
  3. Two events were set up to debate and then shape ideas; the first involved over 100 representatives of nearly 30 forces, staff associations and unions, criminal justice partners and other partner organisations, the private sector and national and local government representatives. The ideas brought forward at that event in March 2015 were then shaped by over 70 of those participants into the options set out in the discussion document.
  4. HMIC provides the secretariat function for the NPAG. Media enquiries should be directed to Amanda Malyon, 07767 005907,