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The police require radical reform if they are to tackle 21st century problems, says independent review

Early findings from a major review of policing in England and Wales show that the police service is not currently equipped to meet the range and complexity of the challenges it faces.

Crime and other threats to public safety have been transformed in recent years, but policing has not caught up with the scale and nature of this change.  

In a wide-ranging survey of the landscape in which the police now operate, the Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales found that while traditional crime such as burglary and car theft has fallen since the turn of the millennium, in its place there has been a huge rise in online crime and in sexual offences reported to the police. The police also have to deal with many more incidents involving people who are multiply disadvantaged. 

The Review found:  

  • Since 1995 crime (excluding fraud and cybercrime) has fallen by 70% (this includes a 72% fall in violent crime, a 74% fall in burglary and a 79% fall in vehicle theft).
  • Cybercrime and fraud have however increased rapidly and made up 44% of all crime in 2019. Fraud is now more common than theft (33%) or violent crime (12%), making up 36% of crime.  
  • There has been a big increase in online child sexual abuse, with 8.3 million unique images being added to the UK’s Child Abuse Image Database in the four years to 2019.
  • Reported domestic abuse crime increased by 77% between 2016 to 2019; stalking and harassment by 792% between 2012 to 2019; rapes by 260% between 2013 and 2019 and child sexual offences by 204% between 2012/13 and 2017/18.
  • The police are now called to many more incidents involving multiply disadvantaged people: mental health related incidents increased by 28% between 2014 and 2018 and incidents involving missing people rose by 46% between 2013/14 and 2016/17.
  • Social tensions have heightened in recent years, causing increased demand on the police. The number of protests involving confrontational tactics rose from 7 in 2000 to 126 in 2019 and in the last six years there has been a 144% increase in hate crimes reported to the police.  
  • Although 75% of the public say that they have confidence in their local police, confidence is lower among black people (70%) and those of mixed ethnicity (68%). 40% of black people and people of mixed ethnicity do not agree that the police are likely to treat them fairly, compared to 33% of white people and 26% of Asian people who say that.  

Policing is struggling to keep pace with these changes, with local forces unable to deal effectively with internet enabled crimes like fraud and cybercrime. More complex crime investigations are hampered by a national shortfall of 5000 detectives and up to 6 month waits for examinations of digital evidence.   

The report concludes that the scale, variety and complexity of the challenges now facing the police mean that we need a radical re-think of how we go about tackling crime and promoting public safety. The second phase of the Review, which will conclude next year, will look at how policing needs to be reformed to meet these challenges.  

The Chair of the Strategic Review of Policing, Sir Michael Barber said:  

“We welcome the promised 20,000 extra police officers and the early recruitment of them. We believe these additional officers are necessary, but we also know that policing will need to be provided differently to tackle the new landscape of crime and harm that we have identified in this report.” 

For some time now policing has been wrestling with a tension between the rise of more complex crimes and social challenges and an operating model that was built for a different time. Whereas in the past the police could deal relatively straightforwardly with bringing offenders to justice they are now presented with a variety of problems, many of which require a social rather than a criminal justice solution and most of which cannot be tackled by a single agency but require extensive collaboration.” 

Cybercrime affects millions of people every year and yet policing is not set up to deal with a world in which so much crime is committed online rather than in the public street.  The scale and complexity of these challenges mean we need to think radically about the role the police play, how they work with others, the skills they require and the way the police service is organised.” 

Notes to editors 

About the Review 

The Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales is chaired by Sir Michael Barber and hosted by the Police Foundation, the UK’s independent policing think tank. The Police Foundation’s Chair, Sir Bill Jeffrey, former Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence is Vice Chair of the Review.  

The first phase of the Review has assessed and defined the challenge the police should be prepared to face over the coming decades. The second phase will look at the capabilities the police service will need to meet these challenges. 

The work of the Review is being guided by an Advisory Board which includes former senior police officers, politicians and leading academics. 

The Review is funded by charitable donations from the Dawes Trust, Deloitte and CGI. On behalf of CGI, Nick Dale, Vice President, Consulting Services, Police, said:  

“As a member of the Advisory Board supporting this important and timely review CGI recognises the need to effect a major programme of change in policing. This programme must be designed to ensure clarity of purpose in light of the changing landscape of crime, and that through modernisation the future police service will be equipped to fulfil that purpose efficiently and effectively. 

Our expert international policing community with long standing operational law enforcement experience has welcomed the opportunity to input into the first phase of this review, and is looking forward to supporting Phase 2. In particular, the need for increased collaboration, public-private partnerships, innovation and technological advancement to deliver a police operating model with accountabilities and resources that are better aligned to demand.” 

Download ‘Public Safety and Security in the 21st Century: the first report of the Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales’.

About Sir Michael Barber 

Sir Michael Barber is the chair of the Office for Students and one of the leading education and government experts of the last 20 years. He served as chief adviser to the Secretary of State for Education from 1997, before setting up the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit in 2001, which worked to ensure the successful implementation of the Prime Minister’s priority programmes, including those in education, health, transport, policing, criminal justice and immigration. Michael now runs his own company, Delivery Associates and took up his post as chair of the Office for Students in March 2017.

About the Police Foundation 

The Police Foundation is the only independent think tank focused exclusively on improving policing and developing knowledge and understanding of policing and crime reduction. Its mission is to generate evidence and develop ideas which deliver better policing and a safer society. It does this by producing trusted, impartial research and by working with the police and their partners to create change.  

About CGI  

Founded in 1976, CGI is among the largest independent IT and business consulting services firms in the world. With 78,000 consultants and other professionals across the globe, CGI delivers an end-to-end portfolio of capabilities, from strategic IT and business consulting to systems integration, managed IT and business process services and intellectual property solutions. CGI works with clients through a local relationship model complemented by a global delivery network that helps clients digitally transform their organizations and accelerate results. With Fiscal 2019 reported revenue of C$12.1 billion, CGI shares are listed on the TSX (GIB.A) and the NYSE (GIB). Learn more at cgi.com.