This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How will the police service enable the ‘frontline professional’ to fight crime and protect the public?

On Wednesday 13 March between 10am and 12 midday there will be a live debate on Twitter using the hashtag #futurecop (from gavthecop)

So I thought I would add my two pennyworth as I will be travelling for much of this time. Here are some ideas:
  • The office of constable is possibly one of the most legally empowered frontline roles in the country but the impression I get is that not many PCs feel this way. How come? Perhaps a start to answering the overall question would be found in understanding why...
  • I have already blogged about the value to be found from not only empowering / enabling the frontline officers (PCs, PCSOs and other staff) but also empowering / enabling citizens and communities to take (evidence based) action to prevent and tackle crime & disorder. (Blog is here) Our aim should be to create 'barefoot crime preventers'
  • Speaking as a socialist of course, I cannot help but notice that socio-economic class features highly in the analysis of where crime happens, which communities are most at risk etc. So perhaps a good dose of sociology and/or socialism as part of police training would be a good thing... While all frontline officers are well versed in addressing racism, sexism, ageism etc... what about a little more about tackling classism?
  • Also as I have blogged before, policing resources should be deployed into areas where there is most risk of harm / actual harm. This might mean that there is sufficient resource to take a long term view of crime and disorder in those areas and engage in some solid prevention. This would be an alternative to constant 'fire fighting' and reactive policing which often arises in places where resources are severely stretched.
  • Perhaps every Neighbourhood Action Group or Community Safety Committee should be required to have a random five members of the ordinary public present each time they meet. These people may give a greater voice to their concerns and help frontline officers know more about what they should be tackling. Equally if any of these five people fall asleep during the course of the meetings, the meeting would have to stop!
  • I have also blogged before about the role of the PCC in crime prevention with a strong focus on the work of Paul Ekblom and his conjunction of criminal opportunity model. Much of this is applicable to frontline officers also.
  • Section 17 of the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act imposes "…. a general duty on each local authority to take account of the community safety dimension in all of its work. All policies, strategies, plans and budgets will need to be considered from the standpoint of their potential contribution to the reduction of crime and disorder". (Source here) Has this law ever been fully enacted? Could frontline officers, perhaps with the back up of the PCC, now be using this more?
What are your ideas?


  1. Enabling the frontline police to protect the public isn't necessarily the same as enabling them to fight crime. Where issues of mental health are concerned, there may have been no crime committed but public protection is still required. What is lacking - and what is in my opinion vital - is effective training for police officers to enable them to deal more effectively, more confidently and more humanely with the many incidents that they deal with on a daily basis. There is an online (NCALT) MH training package but it appears not to be compulsory. And online packages are not silver bullets! Training needs to be coupled with a serious look at the existing mental health legislations, especially section 136 of the Mental Health Act, which is in need of revision, particularly in respect of police powers in the public/private domain. This is something that PCCs should be lobbying the government about right now!

    1. Thanks Rachel I agree. I have some limited knowledge of this - and my impression of how local police have handled MH related incidents have been positive ones.

  2. Chris Williams, LGA13/3/13 12:51

    Hi John

    With regard to your last point, Section 17 extends to all responsible authorities under the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, namely councils, police, fire and rescue services, Probation and PCTs (although it will be CCGs by April 1).

    Certainly all council strategies should have a "crime and disorder implications" element within them - and you'll often see this on papers prepared for council meetings (at top and middle tier at least, parishes are not covered by s17).

    in terms of "fully enacted", it is probably fair to say that s17 could be interpreted as mobilising the full resource of all those partners to tackle crime and disorder. This is patently not the case, and for most responsible authorities participation in setting the community safety strategy via the Community Safety Partnership (and hopefully resourcing actions as a result) would suffice in meeting their s17 responsibilities.

    In an ideal world (from a community safety perspective), all strategies would be undertaken with the prime aim of reducing crime and disorder - but we're not quite there yet! It's also fair to note that there has never been a legal challenge to s17 - it may not hold up in a court of law. In particular, there are concerns that some planning departments may only pay lip service to s17, rather than ensure that crime is adequately "designed out".

    PCCs should be looking to strengthen the statutory partnerships already in existence across their force areas, and work with them to help all responsible authorities deliver their s17 obligations.

    The LGA, of course, are more than happy to help facilitate and improve these relationships.

    1. Thank you Chris - that is a most helpful clarification. I was aware of the scope of s.17 but I was using a shorthand quote. I stand by my view that s.17 powers have never been fully explored by most authorities to which is applies and while it may be given some lip service, there are many areas where it is not always applied as it might be. I am thinking (for example) of parking restrictions creating dangerous roads, licensing decisions that could lead to increased disorder and so forth).

      Perhaps it is time to rediscover s.17, as I say?!

  3. Given what I said earlier, it is somewhat serendipitous that @NathanConstable, a police blogger with an interest in mental health, has just this afternoon published an excellent blog which deals extensively with the paucity of mental health training for police officers. He recommends that initial officer training should include two days' of compulsory training and that this should be subject to an annual one day refresher. The blog is here and can also be found on @MentalHealthCop's website here: Definitely worth a read.