Beat bobbies don't know what to do, claim inspectors
PUBLISHED September 27, 2012
Instruction of officers is focused on procedures and using legal powers rather than how to become an effective crime-fighter, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said in a report.
Only one of the 190 modules of basic training that all new recruits undergo focuses on crime prevention.
The inspectors found a worrying lack of clarity in the series of divergent mission statements produced by different police forces and individual departments, undermining the legitimacy of officers' leadership and crime-fighting roles.
These statements were more likely to use words like "communities", "delivering" and "reassurance" than "crime" or "justice".
"Only one of the force mission statements was explicit about preventing crime. Communication of mission statements was, more often than not, lost among other messages," the report noted.
The inspectors said as a result officers had become "unclear about exactly what the mission is", adding: "Even when responding to a public who wanted them to deal with things they regarded as wrong or dangerous, officers sought to justify why they were not dealing with 'proper' crimes more of the time."
The report, which called for the police to focus more on preventing crime rather than reacting to it, found training for officers "focused more on how to use powers legally, than how to use them to be more effective crime-fighters".
Uniformed officers received little instruction for their roles after their first two years in uniform. However, whenever there was a need to reduce risk to the officer or force, such as in health and safety, technical training was provided, the inspectors said.
Training for detectives was judged to be more effective and, contrary to popular belief, policemen and women were found to spend 80% of their time on crime overall.
The HMIC team followed uniformed officers and detectives from six forces to see how they spent their time.
Police of all ranks were committed to dealing with whatever situation arose and were "masterful" at "getting by", but this was "despite the infrastructure rather than because of it", the Taking Time for Crime report said.
The inspectors concluded: "These officers are right on the frontline of policing. The best use is not being made of their time.
"In austerity they need the best support to deliver a preventive policing approach that reduces demand and improves outcomes with less resource."
Sir Denis O'Connor, the outgoing Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said: "No longer can the police operate as they have - in a predominantly reactive way that chases increasing demand for service. This is especially true in these times of austerity where more is needed from less.
"Now is the time to return to a preventive policing approach, one which was the foundation of modern policing in 1829, but was lost in the 1970s - as the service invested new technology in a predominantly reactive system of policing that is no longer sustainable.
"To achieve this shift in approach, the service will need to be clear about its mission and provide its frontline officers the operational support, technology and training that empowers them to operate in the field as independent professionals."