Transforming policing for the 21st century

“Doing what’s always been done but just a little bit better won’t be enough. What is needed is a fundamental systems approach looking from top to bottom at the whole policing process – not just efficiency but transformation.” Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Reform – KPMG conference, July 2011

In recent years, the debate about police reform has centred on efficiency. However, as the Home Secretary made clear at last year’s Reform – KPMG summit, in an era of budget cuts and increasingly complex demand efficiency is no longer sufficient.

Forces are finding that greater innovation and transformation are required to meet the increased demands placed upon them. Financial pressures are creating a “burning platform” that is pushing the police service to become less risk averse and more willing to implement reform. In the future, changing the organisation and culture of the police service will be crucial for maintaining public confidence, the bedrock of Robert Peel’s original principles on policing by consent.

The Government has created opportunities for forces to deliver more for less. Tom Winsor’s review of police pay and conditions has given Chief Constables the opportunity to structure the workforce more appropriately and make the case that there is no simple link between resources and crime. The introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners in November, the Government’s flagship reform, will make policing accountable in the right way to local electorates. Elsewhere, the decision to transfer responsibility for police ICT to a new company owned and controlled by police forces will provide new opportunities for integration. The new College of Policing will make sure that strong professional standards are upheld.

Individual forces are taking further initiative and implementing their own programmes of reform. At the Reform – KPMG conference last year, DCC Dave Thompson, from West Midlands police showcased a new local policing model that has made services more responsive and efficient. Greater Manchester Police has redefined operational processes and organisational structures across a variety of functions to improve victim satisfaction, reduce backlogs and generate savings of £20 million for reinvestment. At today’s event, DCC Douglas Paxton from Staffordshire Police and DCC Neil Richardson from Strathclyde Police will highlight the innovative work taking place in their forces to deliver the more effective services at better value.

But these reforms are only the beginning. Real transformation relies on rethinking the model of policing to focus on preventing crime from happening in the first instance, rather than reacting to it after it has occurred. To have a meaningful impact on crime rates resources will need to be directed to prevention, early intervention and improved partnership working. Today’s conference will consider how the police can adapt to these challenges and discuss how far it is willing to go to deliver savings whilst continuing to provide an efficient and effective service to the public.