Why do we come to work?

Published on: 24 June 2021


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Speech information


Sir Thomas Winsor WS, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary

5 March 2020

  1. In Aesop’s fable, there was a competition between the North Wind and the Sun to decide which was the stronger of the two.
  2. The challenge was to make a passing traveller remove his cloak.
  3. However hard the North Wind blew, the traveller only wrapped his cloak tighter to keep warm. But when the Sun shone, the traveller was overcome with heat, and soon took his cloak off.
  4. The moral Aesop teaches is about the superiority of persuasion over force. We do not apply force; we are persuaders.
  5. We are an inspectorate, not a regulator.
  6. We have soft power, not hard power. Hard power is the power of the regulator – the power of intervention, direction and enforcement. The power to make people or organisations do things and to punish them if they don’t. Apart from the power to get police forces and FRSs to give us information – and that’s very important, because information is the oxygen of efficiency and effectiveness, and the oxygen of accountability – but apart from that power, ours is soft power.
  7. Don’t confuse soft power with weak power. Soft power is the power of persuasion. It is the power of the sun, to create the conditions in which those in our sight will change in a way we want them to change. We do this through the power of persuasion. The power of our voice.
  8. That voice is the voice of reason. It is the voice of authority. It is the voice of excellent work, of obtaining and analysing information. Of ensuring the information we have is sound and reliable and trustworthy. Of ensuring that our understanding of that information is sound, and that the judgments we make are fair and rational and consistent. And then we tell the public, the decision-makers, the politicians and the other policing and fire institutions. And then they make decisions on what is to be done.
  9. It is the power of the sun, not the wind.
  10. We create the conditions in which people change what they do; we do not and cannot force them through violent assault or legal direction. We do it through the compelling power of reason.
  11. Because we have the power of reason, and the expression of that power in persuasive and compelling terms, through the quality of our reports, others move. They move because they don’t want to be where they are, under our critical eye, under the gaze of an impatient and intolerant public. They want to get better, and we show them how.
  12. HMICFRS is recognised everywhere as the crucible of excellence when it comes to assessing and making judgments about the efficiency and effectiveness of policing and fire.
  13. And because of that, we are the go-to organisation when politicians, national and local, want to have information, analysis, judgments, advice they can with certainty rely upon, which they know they can trust. It’s the opposite of dodgy data and delinquent dossiers. It’s solid, it’s sound, it’s compelling, it deserves to be trusted and acted upon.
  14. And that is what we give them.
  15. On Monday this week, Matt Parr and I saw the Home Secretary, to brief her on several subjects. Matt briefed her on our findings in the Operation Midland inspection of the Met. I was there to tell her about Greater Manchester Police’s problems with its introduction of a new ICT system which had gone badly wrong, and about whistleblowing in the police.
  16. The Home Secretary listened intently. She was well briefed and her questions were good ones. She took in what we were saying, willingly, even though the stories we told were stories of problems. My predominant impression, at the end of it, through what she said to us and how she said it, was that she had just listened to two people she knew she could trust.
  17. She could trust us because of the quality of the work of the inspectorate – your work – in which reason and authority shines brightly throughout. She knew she could make decisions, brief other ministers, do whatever she chose to do with what we had told her, with complete certainty that it was right, that the work of the inspectorate was rock solid, reliable, something she could place her own credibility on.
  18. And that’s what we do. All of us. Every one of you. Every day. And the credit is yours, and the public good that comes of it is to your credit; they are your achievements.
  19. And you should be proud of what you do and how you do it. And you should take a lot of professional satisfaction from the fact that the most senior decision-makers, making the most important decisions concerning the safety and security of the public, have that degree of confidence in what you do.
  20. Now I’d like to say a few things about where we are going and how we are going to get there.
  21. I’m going to speak mainly about policing, but the same principles and many of the same forces at work apply to fire and rescue.
  22. It is in policing that the national focus is greatest at the moment, although the Grenfell public inquiry and what comes out of it for the fire and rescue service is of immense importance.
  23. In the next three years, the police service is going to recruit 54,000 people. That is a very tall order. And when that has been achieved, we will have probably the youngest police service anywhere in Europe, with over half of police officers being under five years’ service.
  24. The pressures on the police – and the expectations of the police – grow every day. And let’s remember this new government is in a hurry. There is an election in about four years. By that time, if the government is going to keep the votes of people who would not normally have supported them, they will need to feel the effects in their daily lives of improvements in public safety – through fewer crimes, less serious violence, less drug dealing, fewer vulnerable people being abused or killed, lower levels of acquisitive and other volume crimes – and they will need to have been feeling these effects for perhaps a year.
  25. So this means the changes which the Government will make need to be started on now. And change takes time to plan and implement. Political horizons are short ones. So they’re driving very hard to get the work going now, because they can’t afford to run out of time. Voters will be unforgiving. Ministers know that.
  26. So where do we come in?
  27. Well, we will continue to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the police and FRSs. We are tightening up and accelerating the ways in which we get inspections done and the reports produced. The PEEL 2020 programme is a major change, and we are consulting on it now; the IPF is going out today or tomorrow with a short fuse on it.
  28. And we have immensely useful instruments and practices to do these things, including the bloodhound capacity of the inspection teams, their healthy professional scepticisms, their thoroughness in all they do, and in the PowerBi facility, force management statements, the rest of the BIP toolkit and the immense intellectual firepower of the analysts, and others.
  29. We have seats on all the major committees which will be planning all this. I sit on the National Policing Board, and other HMIs are on connected bodies.
  30. We are there not to compromise our independence – we will never do that – but to contribute our ideas and our information so that the live-time decisions which are made are as good as they can be.
  31. The Government is very interested in ideas to create the conditions for single system operation, to get the forces to work regionally and nationally without borders and boundaries, recognising that as crime and disorder have changed, the police must try to keep up and work much more closely together. We have a significant contribution to make in that respect.
  32. Our work in the fields of vulnerability, in serious and organised crime, in volume crime, and so much else will be a major contributor to the making of decisions at national as well as regional levels as the police service is enlarged to meet increased demand.
  33. Some of you will remember a speech I gave a couple of weeks ago about the problems of the criminal justice system. I described it as dysfunctional and defective. I spoke of the chronic circularity of offending and re-offending. The intolerable unnecessary pressure on the police because of the failures of other public services, especially mental health services but also failures in social services, education, housing, employment and the diversion of young people from criminality and into useful lives. I spoke about the crisis in our prisons, the appalling brutalising conditions in which offenders are confined, the lack of effective rehabilitation – no training, no libraries, no education, mental health treated only by medication and almost nothing else. I spoke about the hopelessness of prison, and then when the offenders get out, they often have no job, no accommodation, no money, no assistance, and almost no hope of reform. Probation is a mess, and so the circularity of offending is intensified.
  34. If you brutalise people, they will become brutal. And the system is brutalising too many people, and yet politicians appear surprised and angry that these people go back to their offending ways, and that crime rises.
  35. I was on a panel with Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England. Separately, I took him to task about the failures in child and adolescent mental health services. As we know, perhaps 80 per cent of adults who have mental ill-health began that journey into mental illness when they were children. And yet the help that children get from CAMHS – and the help their families get – is usually hopelessly inadequate and far too late.
  36. I pointed him to the assembled chief officers and police and crime commissioners in the hall, and I said that the police forces of England and Wales are spending as much as 20 per cent of their time – using 20 per cent of their capacity – dealing with his patients because his NHS isn’t doing so. And that 20 per cent can’t deal with other things the police should be doing, such as keeping people safe, disrupting organised crime gangs, dealing with the seeds of crime, volume crime, sexual offences, offences against the vulnerable, county lines drugs gangs and all the rest. And that’s not on. And he accepted that. The promises of improvement have been made for ten years, and yet all he could tell me was they were beginning. Remember it takes perhaps seven or eight years to train a mental health doctor. That’s a long time, and to be starting now isn’t okay. But that’s where we are.
  37. Our work needs to reflect the many changes in criminality and the access of criminals to technology.
  38. It also needs to recognise the enormity of the problem created by digital devices, the wealth of possibly relevant evidence from digital devices. The police are struggling to cope, and as terabytes are piled on terabytes of data, new methods of interrogating these colossal mountains of data must be found, through machine learning and artificial intelligence, if timely justice is to be done. Fairness to the suspect is just as important as fairness to the person who has complained of the crime. And justice delayed is justice denied.
  39. And then there’s fraud, an enormous problem which is ruining lives, sometimes costing lives as people who have saved all their lives lose all they’ve worked for, and are so ashamed that they destroy themselves, either physically or from within. And it’s a crime where the chances of detection are vanishingly small. And we’ve reported on that very recently.
  40. As you know, we don’t get to decide what we inspect, because the Home Office holds the purse strings and the Home Secretary approves our annual IPF. But we take the initiative, and the Home Office hardly ever tells us to take things out. They usually want more and more, and we have the usual tussle over funding.
  41. Force management statements drive honesty – the honesty that you can’t meet 100 per cent of projected demand for 70 per cent of its efficient cost. They make forces and politicians face that stark fact, and they force them to make choices about how much crime and disorder they are prepared to tolerate.
  42. That inescapable economic fact is also true of the inspectorate. And it’s my job, with the Board, to ensure that you are not driven too hot and too hard, and that you have the time and space and the facilities to continue the work of which we are all so proud. And Simon and others will speak more about that today.
  43. We are often told we should measure the effect of our inspection reports. Some people want us to put money values on them, which is unrealistic. It may also be thought to be brutal.
  44. It’s a calculation you can make if you make some pretty cold and clinical assumptions.
  45. I first went to Ten Downing Street in October 1999 – just over 20 years ago – in the aftermath of the Ladbroke Grove rail crash in which 31 people died and hundreds were injured, many seriously. Last October, with Cressida Dick and the heads of the London Ambulance Service and the top brass of the London Fire Brigade and the rail industry, I attended a service of remembrance for the people who died. A few days after the crash, I was called to see the prime minister and other ministers to talk about what would be done to make the signalling system on the network safer. And the economists and analysts made a calculation of the value of saving a human life on the railway, as compared to the value of a life saved on the road network. And the calculation was something of the order of £3 million per life saved on the railway, compared with £30,000 per life saved on the roads. And so the politicians need to make a decision about where the money will be spent to the greatest public utility. And I saw them make that calculation, because resources are not unlimited.
  46. And that’s the calculation which the Home Office and the Treasury are making – perhaps not consciously – when they decide on the funding of policing. Because the police can’t meet all demand, and it cannot ensure complete safety and law and order. And we in society choose not to make prisons safe places where rehabilitation takes place. And we choose to release prisoners into the conditions where their chances of reoffending are perhaps at their highest. And in these choices our politicians are making decisions on the public’s behalf to deny people the safety they want but aren’t prepared to pay for.
  47. It’s a brutal calculation; it’s a calculation they make on our behalf, because we choose the politicians and we authorise them to make those decisions.
  48. But do the public realise those are the decisions which are being made for them? Or do they only realise it when their lives – or the lives of people close to them – are touched by the criminal justice system? By which time, it’s too late for them.
  49. Probably not.
  50. But information is the oxygen of accountability.
  51. Our work tells the public – and the politicians – what they can properly expect for the money they’re spending – our money – and whether they’re getting it.
  52. And we tell them what is the quality of the result of that expenditure. And by extension what more they would get if they were to make the political decision to spend more.
  53. And then they must decide whether the levels of service they’re getting – the levels of risk and harm they’re accepting – are as much as they’re prepared to pay for.
  54. They won’t get that information anywhere else. They get it from us. They get it from the quality of the work you do. And that quality is high, and it is trusted, and it is acted upon.
  55. We assess and report on the things which matter very much in their lives.
  56. And those reports get things changed, changed in the fields of domestic violence, in terrorism and serious organised crime, in child protection, in drugs and county lines, in hidden crimes where people are afraid or unable to call the police, in so many other crimes, and changed in the critical work of prevention.
  57. And exactly the same applies in the fire and rescue service, where the efficiency and effectiveness of FRSs can save or cost lives every hour of every day, whether in houses and flats, in tower blocks like Grenfell or in places of work, places of worship or places of leisure.
  58. Our work – in getting forces and FRSs to perform better with the resources they have – saves lives, it saves lives from being lost or shattered by crime or disaster.
  59. In Aesop’s fable, we are the sun, and our work shines very brightly, to the enduring benefit of the public.
  60. And that is why we come to work.