"Every police chief is determined to reduce crime. Our crime fighting efforts must be matched by action that will help us to deliver for the public." NPCC Chair Martin Hewitt's keynote speech at this year's APCC and NPCC Joint Summit.
Good morning and welcome. After two false starts at the end of last year because of EU Exit and a general election, it’s a real pleasure to host you all at our joint summit.
I’ve now been Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) for 10 months, and they have been a busy 10 months. But, as you would expect, I have made time to reflect on what the NPCC is here to do and how we do it.
We bring police chiefs together to help shape the direction of the service and to drive progress – all with the ultimate aim of making people safer. It is abundantly clear to me that we must, and we can, only do that collaboratively.
The next two days are just one of the many ways we come together with key partners to shape the future and find practical solutions to the complex problems that face policing.
We’re joined by experts from business, colleagues from the public and third sector, think tanks, and journalists to contribute to, challenge, and develop our thinking. You are all very welcome.
I want to start by thanking the Home Secretary because we have wanted the Home Office to play a more active role in policing and that is what you have done. I extend those thanks to Ministers and officials both from the recent past and present who have been part of building the stronger relationship we have today.
Home Secretary, you and the Prime Minister have placed policing and crime at the very top of your Government’s agenda. You have visibly demonstrated your support to our hardworking officers and staff. You are investing to give us greater capability, and you are providing us with the direction that only the Home Office can.
Because we are emerging from a decade of austerity, in which policing along with all our partners who play a role in public safety have been starved of resources at a time when demand for our services has increased in both volume and complexity. The public have felt the effects.
We have arrived, though, at a consensus - shared by the public, by the criminal justice system and by politicians. A consensus that crime is too high and justice is far too often not done.
Equally strong is the determination that the situation must change.
We are in lockstep with the Government in our ambition to fight rising crime and to make people safer.
We know that the Government will soon set out what they want police forces to achieve in the next three years and I am pleased to say we have worked collaboratively in that process.
Quite rightly, those outcomes will reflect some of the public’s top priorities - reducing serious violence, tackling the scourge of county lines gangs, and getting a grip on burglary and theft.
I can assure you that every police chief is determined to deliver.
With sensible multi-year, national performance measures we think we can do it.
We have proven methods to bear down on violence, and they’re working. Along with other tactics, intelligence-led stop and search resulted in a 17 per cent increase in arrests for possession of an offensive weapon in the last year.
In London, latest statistics show a 10 per cent fall in knife injuries to under-25s over the last 12 months – a positive indicator of the results police can achieve with operational focus and a surge of resources.
We have great evidence and experience about what works in neighbourhood policing, and we’re using it. A neighbourhood team in Dorset seized more than a quarter of a million pounds worth of drugs and cash and protected 47 children through a focus on county lines gangs. Another example is Bedfordshire Police’s partnership with academics to develop a predictive tool that automatically tracks knife crime hotspots and police deployments. It will enable operational inspectors to make more informed decisions based on live-time information.
We are also actively finding ways to prevent or design out crime, such as proposals from our national vehicle crime lead to stop the cash-only auctions that are fuelling car theft, and advising car manufacturers on action they can take to reduce the market for stolen catalytic converters.
These are a few among many more examples that I could give you, and we will hear about some others over the next couple of days.
Thanks to the planned growth in officers between now and 2023, we will now be able to boost the numbers focused on violence, crime-fighting and targeted neighbourhood patrol.
And as the new recruits begin to arrive, the intense pressure that has been placed on our people in recent years will start to ease. We will finally be able to be more proactive. And, over time, I have no doubt that it will improve crime rates and reduce the number of victims.
We won’t achieve these results overnight. No one predicts our demand or its increasing complexity will reduce. And, of course, policing doesn’t have the luxury of focusing solely on a handful of top priorities. Every day, officers and staff at all levels in policing will still be making difficult choices, weighing up the relative threat, risk and harm as they prioritise deployments.
But I am confident that the tide is starting to turn and we will be in a much better place in three years’ time.
Whilst I am ambitious and confident about the difference we can make, I have to be frank that sustainable reductions in crime, and meaningful improvements in public confidence cannot be delivered by the police alone. A number of other factors will be crucial to reaching the outcomes we all want to see.
Firstly, the criminal justice system as a whole must be repaired.
More officers doing more policing will, of course, increase the number of charges, the number of prosecutions in court and, progressively, the number of cases convicted. That, in turn, will mean more people in prison, more people needing rehabilitation, and more people needing tailored, effective support in the community.
So the whole criminal justice system needs to be fit to cope. Again, I believe we are at a moment of consensus - we can all see it’s not coping now. It’s creaking and in places it’s breaking. More importantly, it’s letting down victims and leaving criminals to walk free.
Without serious change, more policing won’t mean more justice. And more policing without more justice is a recipe for corroding legitimacy – both in us as the police and in all parts of the system.
That’s why a thorough, independent look at the whole system through the planned Royal Commission is so important. We stand ready to contribute and help to bring about long overdue change.
Secondly, we need to be prepared to say when our tactics, or our capabilities, or our organisation are not matched to the nature of the threat, or to the level of our ambition. And then we must work actively with partners to shape the necessary change.
Fraud is a good example. We want to drive down fraud by making the risks and costs higher for criminals. But, as many victims of fraud know, our current tactics, capabilities and structures are not up to the job. The strategic ideas for improvement are there, and the conversations are happening, but commitment and investment - from law enforcement, government and industry - are needed to really move the dial in the right direction.
Let’s take serious and organised crime as another example. In an area where the threat and complexity is increasing, the policing system is not properly set up to provide the right response consistently at a national, regional and local level. So we must carefully consider and then collectively and decisively act on the findings from the independent review of serious and organised crime, which will report soon.
And, indeed, the NPCC itself must evolve to more effectively play its role in achieving our shared goals.
Thirdly, we must continue to exploit the opportunities presented by technology and data. Advances in technology are being used right now by criminals and the pace of change will only get faster. We need to catch up, and keep up, to protect the public.
We now have an ambitious strategy for the next 10 years developed jointly by police chiefs and PCCs working with the private sector. To deliver on that strategy, both chief constables and PCCs will have to pool some of their individual sovereignty and collaborate in a way that we have not always successfully done in the past. This is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.
We must also keep trialling and testing new technology and uses of data that will help us catch criminals and prevent crime. Yes, we must encourage and support the Government and regulators in building the right legal and ethical framework. Yes, we must listen to concerns - our approach will be the better for it. But, to take one example, when 70 per cent of the public support us in using live facial recognition in criminal investigations, we cannot afford to be held back by the views of some campaign groups. We must keep moving forward, in a legitimate, lawful and ethical way, but at a much faster pace than we have done in the past decade.
Fourthly, we need others to drive the broader societal changes that lead to sustainable crime reduction.
Genuine cross-government, cross-industry, cross-agency interventions can do what police activity alone can’t – improving life chances so that people, particularly young people, have a positive, productive role in society. Helping them to resist the draws of crime, violence or terrorism, and to play an active part in keeping themselves and others safe.
More specifically, for us to focus on the core roles of policing, other agencies must be enabled to step up, and held to account if they don’t. To give one example, more responsive mental health provision outside of office hours remains a key goal. A police officer called to the scene of someone in a mental health crisis can’t abandon them to move on to a ‘crime job’ when there are remaining risks to that individual and other members of the public. I wouldn’t want a police service that walked away like that. But I think all of us would want the situation to be resolved quickly by a well-trained medical professional. Far too often, that is not the experience of officers on the ground.
In this context, the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary’s commitment to using all the levers of government to reduce crime is very encouraging. And finding ways to remove some of this ‘stepping in’ demand will allow us to do more crime fighting. Again, chief officers stand ready to support and contribute professional insight to whatever forums are set up.
Finally, we must intensify our efforts to increase diversity within our ranks. Our legitimacy with the communities that we police depends upon it.
Every chief in England and Wales has signed up to a goal of building a workforce that is reflective of their communities. That goal must remain a priority because diversity of culture, experience and thought will mean better teams, and better organisations that are equipped to seize the opportunities and face the challenges ahead. It’s especially important at this time when we have embarked on an unprecedented recruitment drive, which gives a generational opportunity to improve diversity in our service.
Since taking over this role, I have expressed my personal concern about the lack of representation at the top of policing. Like many others, I would want to be able to look around a room like this and see more people of colour, more women, and to know that we are more reflective of a greater range of backgrounds and life experiences.
I have commissioned research, which is currently out to tender, to identify the factors that inhibit women and black, Asian or ethnic minority officers from pursuing chief officer jobs. I will act on those findings and I will expect chiefs and PCCs to support me in accelerating diversity among our senior leaders.
Many challenges lie ahead. The terror threat remains acute and volatile. Borderless organised criminals are diversifying and causing significant harm to individuals and to the economy of the UK. We have much to do to recover ground in communities that feel we have withdrawn. Additionally, over the next 10 months we face uncertainty over the outcome of transition negotiations and our access to a range of legal instruments that enable security cooperation with our EU neighbours.
But facing challenges is what we do.
We move forward into this new decade with a confident government that wants to get things done, an increase at last in officer numbers and, soon, a clear outcomes framework for policing. That is a positive place to be.
So let’s build on it, take on the challenges and deliver for the public.
And let’s also keep pushing forward the changes that will help us to deliver – a repaired criminal justice system, fixing the parts of our policing system that hold us back, exploiting the opportunities of technology, holding others to account for their responsibilities in public safety, and importantly building a more reflective, diverse police service.
Let’s do it together. We are stronger and much more effective when we do.