I have just managed to fight my way out from under the pile of reports published about policing in the last few days. I know that crime will be a key battleground in the next election, but at least give us a chance to read the last report before releasing the next one!
The report by Jan Berry ‘Reducing Bureaucracy in Policing‘ is however particularly timely. The familiar refrain from the public is that there are not enough Bobbies on the Beat because they are all in police stations filling out forms. As an active police officer for the past fifteen years, I have a great deal of sympathy with that view. I can assure you that police officers do not join to fill out forms, nor do they enjoy it. Police officers want to be free to police, to make common sense judgements at incidents, and target real criminals. There is no greater feeling for officers than locking up a criminal at the scene of a crime, or following an operation.
Officers do not want to be arresting children for playground fights, or neighbours involved in disputes with each other, but previous centrally imposed performance regimes have driven them to do so. We pay our police officers to be out in the community, tackling crime and anti-social behaviour, not to sit in stations completing forms. They should be out, that this where they want to be and it is where the public wants them.
Jan Berry’s report sets out how she thinks police officers ought to be freed up to do more pro-active policing. Jan is the former head of the Police Federation, representing the views of officers up to Chief Inspector rank, so she is well placed to understand the frustrations felt by cops, and the public.
In West Midlands Police we have been one of the pilot forces for ‘community resolutions’. This effectively allows officers to use their judgement to make decisions at the scene of some lower level crimes, and together with the victim agree on a suitable remedy. So if a gang of kids break your window, you can ask them to apologise and pay for it, rather than enter into the criminal justice system. So far we have carried out 8000 of these types of resolutions, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Police officers are allowed to use their professional judgement (or common sense as it is more commonly known,) based on the full circumstances of the case, not on narrow performance objectives.
I have done a lot of work around community resolutions, and I really think they have merit. Providing they are used properly, and on appropriate crimes, it gives the victim what they want, doesn’t criminalise children or decent people for ‘moments of madness’, and frees up the police and criminal justice system to focus on more serious criminality.
Have a look at this clip which sets out how they work, and let me know what you think.