Contact Us

For media enquiries call
020 3276 3803
or 07803 903686 for urgent out of hours enquiries.

You can also email the press office.

Follow us on @policechiefs

Sara Thornton's speech to NPCC & APCC joint summit in full - November 2016

23 Nov 2016

Welcome to our second joint conference.  Last year we welcomed you to the gothic splendour of Manchester Town Hall, this year the 1980’s splendour of the QE2

You will recall that we were all surprised at last year’s conference by the Chancellor’s announcement on the Spending Review. 

I also think that many of us would also have been surprised if we could have understood the extent of joint working between police and crime commissioners and chiefs that we were about to embark upon.

One of the Open University academics we have been working with, Jean Hartley, compares this joint work to dancing on ice:

“The delicate, symbiotic and sometimes precarious process of working together which elected or appointed politicians and senior public servants have to undertake, particularly if each wishes to be successful. 

“The sense of moving together, giving each other space, sometimes one in the spotlight, sometimes the other, where sometimes the partnership may stumble and occasionally fall”

So I hope this conference will be more Torvill and Dean than Eddie the Eagle!

The structural changes made by the coalition government are bedding in and are all well-established; PCCs, the College of Policing and the National Crime Agency.

The role of the police service continues to evolve and change. 

In 1829 the police dealt with crimes committed among local people in public places, more and more we are dealing with crime in private places and that which crosses national borders. More generally citizens’ expectations of public services continue to rise and the breadth of police work has increased significantly. 

There has been a shift from a focus on volume crime, in particular acquisitive crime, to high harm.  The Crime Survey of England and Wales shows reductions from a peak of 19 million crimes a year in 1995 to seven million in 2015. 

Colleagues are rightly sensitive about the conclusions that we draw from that reduction.  We know that there are also an estimated 5.8 million cyber and cyber-enabled crimes a year and there are new many challenges:

  • conservative estimates suggest 10,000 to 13,000 victims of modern slavery in this country;
  • there has been an 80 per cent increase in allegations of child sexual abuse between 2012 and 2015;
  • we estimated 50,000 people downloading and sharing indecent images of children but a few weeks ago the NSPCC suggested it was as many as 500,000;
  • 15-20 per cent of incidents are now linked to mental health crises;
  • the threat from terrorism remains at severe and we know that 850 UK extremists have travelled to Syria of which half have returned.  We are arresting about 300 people a year for terrorism offences.  We have developed our counter-terrorism capability in the last ten years working very closely with the security agencies. 

Technological innovation has also brought its challenges.  There is the familiar cycle of innovation without much consideration of crime consequences, a consequent crime harvest where vulnerabilities to crime are exploited and then the retrofit of a solution – often partial.

The dark web in general serves a market in counterfeit passports, weapons and exploited children.  The Silk Road website has been closed down several times and its original developer imprisoned but the platform continues to exist.

Digital communication provides one to many communications – only one vulnerable target need respond.

Law enforcement has often been flat-footed by these new crimes – lacking resources, the right skills and hampered by traditional approaches.

If the first challenge for us as police leaders is changing requirements, then the second is reducing resources.  The resources that police forces have to protect the public reduced by 18 per cent between 2010 and 2015 and officer numbers by nine per cent and staff by 14 per cent.

HMIC has just published the detail of planned reductions over the rest of this Spending Review which shows that gross revenue expenditure will decline by 1 per cent to 12.6 billion and forces are forecasting further reductions of 2 per cent for police officers and 3 per cent for police staff.

Therefore in total we will see reductions from 244,000 in 2010 to 194,000 in 2020.

The twin challenges of changing demand and reducing resources require transformation and for us to re-imagine policing.

The Prime Minister made it quite clear last year that the response to these changing threats, evolving requirements and financial challenges need to be led by the service – as she said to us last December ‘over to you’. 

Police and crime commissioners and chiefs working together have made progress over the last 12 months but there is more to do.

Force identity, funding and democratic accountability are local – it is the strength of the British policing model - but that does not prevent us from collaborating and co-ordinating in the national interest.

I am quite clear that the Police Reform and Transformation Board is not recreating national targets, toolkits and action plans but is supporting new ways to respond to threats that are often national and international and grasping the opportunity which technology provides to be more effective and more efficient.

The National Crime Agency is working more closely with forces.  At strategic tasking last week, we focused on modern slavery, child sexual exploitation and abuse and firearms – each threat area was presented for discussion by the NCA threat lead and the chief officer threat lead.

The College of Policing is developing exciting ideas to professionalise the service, to support our staff to develop new skills and develop leadership at every level.  

The Police Reform and Transformation Board offers an opportunity to all work together to support the key priorities.

Our Vision 2025 is not the Gettysburg address but it is an ambition that we have jointly developed and which we all support.  We are developing a joint agenda led by the service and I look forward to this conference and the opportunity to involve all of you in our endeavour to be even better at protecting and serving the public.

View other speeches from the NPCC & APCC joint summit:

Vera Baird, Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners & Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria
Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, Home Secretary
Sir Thomas Winsor, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary
Rt Hon David Lammy MP, Member of Parliament for Tottenham & Chair of the Independent Review of BAME Representation in the Criminal Justice System
Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP, Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service