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APCC & NPCC Partnership Summit 2022: Speech by NPCC Chair Martin Hewitt

09 Nov 2022

APCC & NPCC Partnership Summit 2022: Speech by NPCC Chair Martin Hewitt: Martin Hewitt at Summit 2022

This is the speech delivered by NPCC chair Martin Hewitt at the APCC & NPCC Partnership Summit on Wednesday 9th November 2022. The theme of the Summit was 'Cutting Crime, Building Confidence'.

Good morning and welcome, 

Thank you for travelling to be here with us today. Your support and attendance is hugely appreciated by me, our sponsors, and our exhibitors. 

And a warm welcome to those of you who are joining us remotely. 

This will be my last summit speech as NPCC Chair, as in April next year my four-year term comes to a close.  I’m delighted to be handing over to Gavin Stephens, Chief Constable of Surrey Police. 

I know he will provide excellent leadership of the NPCC in the important role it will continue to play. And I have no doubt the coming four years will be no less lively than the last! 

The theme of the summit this year is cutting crime and building confidence.  But before I get to that, I’d like to reflect on the past year and my time in this role. 

As NPCC Chair, I have felt immense pride in my profession on many occasions. 

I am incredibly proud at how policing rose to the challenge of Covid.  We policed the regularly changing regulations, often different across each of the four nations, with one policing approach and maintained public confidence throughout.  

The last year has seen some of the largest gatherings and ceremonial occasions in our lifetimes, encompassing times of collective celebration and mourning. These have been matched by effective and professional policing operations on quite an incredible scale drawing on the capability of every force in the UK - from Police Scotland’s operation to support the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.  

2022 will also be remembered as the year we sadly lost our longest reigning Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II triggering a well-rehearsed and meticulously planned ten-day operation. 

The policing of the period of national mourning, the accession of His Majesty King Charles III, and the state funeral was the largest ever ceremonial operation for UK policing.  More than 5,000 officers from across the UK ensured security so that the public could pay their respects safely at events across our four nations. These officers came together from 47 police services, as well as British Overseas Territories, including Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and Bermuda.  

Elsewhere, officers continue to demonstrate professionalism, tenacity and resilience when responding to increasingly challenging protest activity.   

This week we are seeing protests on the road network.  A combination of proactivity and preparedness meant we have been able to reopen the busy motorways quickly. Working with government and other agencies we continue to use civil injunctions as well as our criminal powers to minimise disruption.   

Policing is not anti-protest, but it is pro-responsibility and for having due regard for the rights of others. We will continue to take all appropriate action against anyone who deliberately chooses to protest outside of the law. 

I am also proud of the collective commitment made by police chiefs to deliver transformative change in how we tackle violence against women and girls and in our relationship with Black people. Two critical issues in retaining the trust and confidence of all communities. 

Chief constables of England and Wales have committed to a programme of change through the Police Race Action Plan to achieve an anti-racist police service.  Over 5,000 organisations and individuals have provided feedback on the first iteration of the plan, which will shape its future development and delivery. 

Every police force in England and Wales has its own local action plan aligned with the NPCC and College of Policing VAWG framework. Op Soteria Bluestone is now active in 19 police forces.   As a result, Independent Sexual Violence Advisors in some of these forces are saying that for the first time, in a long time, they can truly recommend victims should speak to the police.  

But I have also experienced some of my darkest moments as a police officer.  I have repeatedly felt shame at hearing the actions of some individuals in our service and deep regret that we didn’t get these people out sooner. 

Last week, I responded to the HMICFRS’s inspection on vetting, counter corruption and misconduct on behalf of police chiefs.  While the inspectorate agreed with the vast majority of the vetting decisions and found the majority of misconduct investigations were effective, that still leaves a deeply concerning number of decisions that were just plain wrong.   And dangerously wrong, allowing predators or wholly unsuitable individuals to join or stay in policing and do harm to their colleagues or the public. That is simply not good enough. 

The report lists previous inspections, strategies and action plans shared over the past decade that warned of problems and gave specific recommendations for change. 

I know better than most that after each of these interventions, police forces took action. I know there have been many improvements and effective new initiatives over the past decade. 

But it has been made abundantly clear it hasn’t been enough.   It hasn’t been comprehensive and consistent enough.  It hasn’t ensured the highest standards in our vetting and misconduct.  And it hasn’t eliminated pockets of toxic culture. 

The surveys and interviewees conducted by the inspectorate show too many women in policing have experienced predatory and misogynistic behaviour and they’ve been let down by the response. 

A recent survey of Black officers and staff, due to be published in December, has shown incidents of racial microaggressions, discrimination and harassment are common and prevalent.  We also know other minoritised groups – LGBTQ+, disabled people and other ethnic minorities - inside and outside policing have real concerns. 

I want to speak directly to all those who have had courage to raise those concerns. 

Thank you for speaking out. You are doing the right thing.  You are contributing to the change that you want to see. Keep doing it. 

I am sorry that you have experienced behaviour you shouldn’t have faced and then you’ve been let down by the response.  I am sorry for the weight and worry it has caused. 

Now a message to the police leaders in this room.  Individually and collectively, locally and nationally we must now take that burden from those who have carried it for too long.   

We must solve the problems - urgently, fully and for the long term.  No piecemeal change or half measures.  Public confidence and the confidence of our people depends on it. 

I commit to doing everything in my power alongside our NPCC leads, the College of Policing, the Home Office and the Independent Office of Police Conduct to support the changes we must make.

Cutting crime and building confidence are ambitions shared by all of us at this summit, including the new Home Secretary and Policing Minister. More importantly, it’s what the public expects and deserves. 

A few reflections on how we make that ambition a reality. 

We have made considerable gains in reducing and preventing crime.  The number of burglaries is down 51 per cent in the last decade due to prevention work.  The latest ONS figures show falls in robbery, vehicle offences and crimes involving knives or firearms.   

But we are solving 50 per cent less crime than seven years ago.  Our capabilities to tackle the 4.5 million frauds a year are still too limited.  And the public are noticing – confidence is on a downwards trend. 

We want to focus on volume crime like burglary and the most harmful violent crimes like domestic abuse, rape, knife crime and murder.  We want to invest more heavily in neighbourhood policing to tackle crime and local problems but also to build connectedness and legitimacy with all communities so we truly police in partnership.  And we must also continue our fight against the enduring and ever-changing threats from organised crime, terrorism and cyber-enabled criminality by working with partners and at international, national, regional and local level to prevent harm.   

But we are being held back from focusing on these core responsibilities and we need the government’s help to change that. 

Firstly, the vast widening of the policing mission needs to be taken on.   

There are various figures and estimates but I don’t think there is any doubt that over half of all calls for service we receive are something other than a crime. 

Some are entirely legitimate police activity, but a substantial proportion see police stepping into health and social work because of an absence of other service provision. 

This issue has been raised at every one of these summits and I, and many others, have discussed it with every recent home secretary and policing minister.  But there has been no meaningful change – and that needs to happen if we are to improve crime reduction and detection rates. 

I know this government wants us to get the basics right so I am optimistic they will want to support us in finding solutions. 

Secondly, I reiterate our calls for the Home Office to review the crime recording standards.  Currently the process presents a misleading picture to the public about the levels of crime because there are many incidents recorded as crimes that will never be solved or prosecuted – in fact many of them are not even crimes.   

Police recorded crime tells the public that crime is at an all-time high.  But the Crime Survey of England and Wales, which measures people’s actual experience, shows crime is falling and is much lower than 20 years ago.  There must a better way that gives the public accuracy and transparency. 

Last year, our crime recording lead estimated close to 1,200 officers and staff were involved in ensuring compliance with crime recording in England and Wales at a cost of around 47 million pounds annually.  If we reduced the bureaucracy currently involved in the process and could free up just half of those staff as a result, that could mean an additional 300 newly recruited neighbourhood police officers - with an average of seven deployed in every force in England and Wales. 

Finally, the criminal justice system desperately needs reform.  The Director of Public Prosecutions said last week the backlog of defendants awaiting crown court trial has reached nearly 75,000.  This isn’t a new issue.  Many of the problems existed long before the pandemic had its inevitable impact on the system.

We need a robust model that works from end to end.  There was a manifesto commitment in 2019 to hold a royal commission into the criminal justice system. While that model has its downsides, I continue to support the need for a comprehensive independent review.   

Addressing these three key issues will mean police chiefs can direct more resources to solving crime and meeting the public’s priorities, and justice will be delivered more quickly and effectively. 

Strengthening police culture so it is more inclusive, better at listening and involving the public in its decisions and has the highest professional and ethical standards is as important as our crime fighting.  If there is any doubt about that, reading Baroness Louise Casey’s interim report on misconduct in the Met and HMICFRS’s report from last week should dispel it.   

Where we struggle to explain action we are taking or where it is not having a positive impact, we need to reconsider it. But, if we are accused of being woke when taking action that we know is effective in building trust, with people where that increased trust is needed, we must stand tall, champion and defend that action.   

We are all rightly sceptical of tokens or gimmicks.  Meaningful action that works is what we need. 

My time chairing the NPCC has seen the first significant financial reinvestment in policing since in 2012 with the recruitment of the additional 20,000 police officers through the police uplift programme.  That government investment has allowed us to put more officers into response and neighbourhood teams and to bring in new direct entry detectives. 

The seeds, however, of many of our current performance challenges were sown in those years of austerity and, despite the very welcome recent investment, officer and staff numbers remain lower than a decade ago. 

We all know the country is facing serious economic challenges and the Government has extremely difficult decisions to make about public spending.   

It is sobering to reflect that the estimated additional cost pressures for policing in 2023/24 amount to a third of a billion pounds. If the uplift in police officers is not maintained, the benefits of the growth since 2019 will be lost. More pressure on other public services means more pressure on the core policing mission.  We all know that under-funded public services are not reforming public services and good performance is built on certain and sustainable funding. 

I urge the Government to factor this into their decisions.  A cash starved police service and criminal justice system will struggle to make necessary changes and improve public and victim satisfaction.

Many of issues I’ve raised we’ll discuss in more detail over the coming two days from a range of perspectives. So, let’s get into those important discussions now. Thank you.