Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Thomas Winsor, has published his annual assessment of policing in England and Wales.
His assessment finds police forces are having to “pick up the slack” as cuts in other public services increase pressure on them.
He also draws attention to “material pressures” on police forces which are put the service under strain.
Association President Chief Superintendent Gavin Thomas responded to the report, saying:
“The PSAEW welcomes this report which has highlighted two key themes.
“Firstly, the vast majority of frontline officers and staff continue to do a very difficult job in demanding and extremely difficult circumstances. The report states that frontline officers feel this strain particularly acutely; and that their jobs require them to deal with difficult, uncertain and often dangerous situations. The job that they do takes a toll on their own physical and mental well-being.
“However, the report has highlighted that the level of support for officers and staff varies considerably between forces. This should not be so and it is one of the reasons why this Association has supported, and campaigned for, the introduction of a national welfare and well-being service to provide high quality and consistent support across the country. This is something to which all police officers and staff should have equality of access.
“The stresses and strains of policing are not just felt by frontline police officers and staff alone. Superintendents and Chief Superintendents are the service’s senior operational leaders. Due to cuts in police budgets over recent years, they have experienced a reduction of 27% in their numbers since 2011. This is the largest percentage reduction in any rank group. The demands placed upon them have increased considerably during this period, and they too are operating under significant pressure.
“The second theme identified in this report is the numerous examples of excellence in a police service which is still the envy of the world. Whilst this is something very much to be celebrated, there remains the issue of consistency of approach between police forces – which this Association has highlighted before.
“We accept there will be local variations in how policing is delivered, but it cannot be a sustainable position, particularly in the area of vulnerability, that service provision can vary so greatly. This is something that the public, quite rightly, would neither accept nor understand.
“This report rightly focuses on the state of policing now. However, this Association will continue to argue that the service needs to look more to the future. It needs to develop a longer term strategic vision; and to get better at identifying potential future threats, risks and opportunities much sooner. This will help to inform the service’s leadership, policy-makers, and the public.
“Whilst this is important across all areas of policing, it is particularly so in the areas of technology; vulnerability; mental health and protecting children, which are referred to in this report.
“We police by consent and this report has again highlighted that, despite the challenges, three times as many people report being satisfied with the police as are dissatisfied. The proportion of people who speak highly of the police is increasing. Everyone, from the newest recruit through to police staff and chief constable, should recognise this and be proud of the service of which they are part.
“We have advocated for some time that the police service needs to move from operating in a blame culture to one of being a learning organisation. This would improve yet further levels of public satisfaction and confidence in the police service.
“This Association will continue to draw attention to those issues which we consider of importance to our members and which would enhance policing for the public good.”
The full report can be read on the HMIC website.