The crisis in policing can only be fixed through serious reform
After 13 years of Tory government, over 90 per cent of crimes are going unsolved. That means far more criminals being let off and far more victims being let down.
As the Home Secretary launches her crime week, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the crisis in policing created by her party’s chaotic mismanagement and shambolic in-fighting.
Unless the government gets a grip of the serious challenges facing forces across the country, they risk taking policing by consent to the brink. Already, 50 per cent of people say the police are not doing a good job, and a third of people already admit to not reporting crimes as they don’t believe any action would be taken.
No gimmicky crime week will make up for the way they have let our police and communities down
For us to see serious change, we need three key reforms to the way our police forces are run. First, there must be proper mechanisms to deal with poor performance and bad behaviour in the police. There is no proper, mandated system of standards in policing. The vetting of new applicants is confusing, with no focus on a person's character or even social media history. Police officers deserve to work in a service where professional standards are high and where they can rely on their colleagues to deploy integrity and skill.
Second, the government must fix the postcode lottery of standards across the country. At the moment, victims of crime are treated differently depending on where they live. Everyone has a story about an interaction with the police where something wasn’t right, or something wasn’t done. Calls going unanswered, evidence missed, police not turning up. There is no enforcement to make sure the police follow the rules.
And third, we need to see the return of neighbourhood policing; putting bobbies back on the beat, rather than locked away in back office roles. A focus on neighbourhood policing, with visible, accessible, officers is crucial to rebuilding trust and confidence. We have lost 50 per cent of our PCSOs and 7,000 detectives and the Tories have still failed to come up with a proper policing workforce plan.
I have met so many wonderful officers desperately frustrated that they can’t do the job they joined the force to do. Government inaction has taken its toll. Ministers blame local forces when things go wrong, but are all too ready to take ownership when things in individual forces go right.
So what would Labour do differently? Britain deserves the very highest standards of policing. That’s why we would introduce mandatory national minimum standards for all police forces. This would include suspending police officers accused of rape or domestic abuse in line with other professions. We would overhaul vetting, training and misconduct processes to weed out those who are not fit to join the police and ensure proper support for the vast majority of our police officers, who bravely run towards danger as others retreat. And we will ensure the Inspectorate is properly holding police forces to account for their performance.
We will deliver 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs, paid for by merging procurement of IT, cars and other equipment for the 43 separate police forces. Labour will introduce a new Neighbourhood Police Guarantee – guaranteeing a minimum number of patrols in local communities and ensuring each area has a named police officer to turn to when things go wrong.
Labour will also be launching a campaign pack on anti-social behaviour to all key seats, seeing it as a core part of their appeal to win over Tory voters disillusioned with the failure of the current government to tackle anti-social behaviour, particularly in town centres.
As director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer helped put many dangerous criminals behind bars. He has made it a core mission of the next Labour government to increase the proportion of crimes solved and deliver record levels of confidence in British policing.
The Tories have had 13 years to get things right. No gimmicky crime week will make up for the way they have let our police and communities down. It’s time they adopted Labour’s plan to drive up standards and ensure the public, once again, believe the police will be there when they need them.
Sarah Jones is the Labour MP for Croydon Central and shadow policing minister.
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