Session 2004-05, dated 10 March 2005
Police Reform Programme-Overall Strategy on Track
The Government's overall strategy for police reform is on track concludes a new report by the Home Affairs Select Committee. However, the implementation of the reforms has varied in its effectiveness.
A performance culture has begun to embed itself in the police service, and good progress has been made in implementing some of the recommendations of the bureaucracy taskforce. There has also been a simplification of targets and a greater emphasis on local decision making.
The Committee supports the public desire for more police officers to be returned to the beat and concludes that the real potential for saving police time and resources lies in introducing more effective information technology.
The Committee recommends that the definition of front-line policing should be changed to exclude times spent dealing with paperwork indoors.
The report accepts that crime detection has limited usefulness as an indicator of police effectiveness, because it does not distinguish between serious and minor crimes but concludes that in the next phase of police reform more attention should be paid to improving the capacity of the police to detect crime.
The Committee concluded that the success of police reform will in large measure be judged by whether crime rates fall and in particular by whether the new PSA target of a 15% fall by 2007-8 is met. The Committee notes that 40 out of 43 forces in England and Wales have reduced the levels of target crime in the twelve months up to June 2004.
There was a fall in the fear of crime of 3.5% in 2003 compared with the previous year. Although recorded crime increased between 2002-3 and 2003-4, the British Crime Survey figures for 2003-4 show a fall in overall crime of 5% and a fall in violent crime of 3%, over the previous year.
Commenting, Committee Chairman Rt Hon John Denham MP said:
"The overall priority for police forces is, and must continue to be, a reduction in crime and the fear of crime.
"Police reform is definitely moving in the right direction. A huge amount of progress has already been made and many aspects of the reform programme are working well.
"We are starting to see a performance culture embedding itself in police forces across the country. Priorities have been simplified over the three year programme and we're beginning to see a far greater emphasis on local decision-making, a trend that should be actively encouraged. Community Support Officers have proved popular with the public and there has been considerable progress on negotiations surrounding officer's pay and conditions.
"However, despite good attempts to reduce bureaucracy, too many officers are still at their desks dealing with paperwork when they could be out on the beat, policing on the front line and giving the public the visible presence they need and want."
The Committee also made recommendations on:
Rationalisation of the many bodies involved in police reform
Local decision making
Police training budgets
The recruitment of minority groups
Progress on the adoption of DNA technology by individual forces