In his first annual assessment of policing in England and Wales, Andy Cooke said the police service is at a historic turning point and called for major reform, including new powers for the inspectors of constabulary.
His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary described the state of policing in 2022 and made recommendations to the Government and chief constables, which included giving the chief inspector of constabulary power to give direction to a police force when there are significant concerns about public safety.
“I was a police officer for 36 years before I took this job. I am in no doubt of the dedication, bravery and commitment of the vast majority of police officers and staff. But there are clear and systemic failings throughout the police service in England and Wales and, thanks to a series of dreadful scandals, public trust in the police is hanging by a thread,” Chief Inspector Andy Cooke said.
“The police need to prioritise the issues that matter most to the public,” he continued.
“Forces are failing to get the basics right in investigation and responding to the public, and they need to concentrate on effective neighbourhood policing; and
“Critical elements of the police service’s leadership and workforce arrangements need substantial reform, such as more scrutiny on vetting and recruitment processes, including for chief officers.”
We need definitive actions, not glossy strategies, chief constable said
The chief inspector described widespread systemic failings in both the police and criminal justice system, both of which threaten to damage public trust in police.
He has called for definitive action to be taken to address these failings, instead of “glossy strategies and mission statements” that do not bring about lasting change.
“I am calling for substantial reform to give the inspectors of constabulary more power to ensure we are able to do everything necessary to help police forces improve. Over the years, we have repeatedly called for change,” he said.
“There are only so many times we can say the same thing in different words – it is now time for the Government to bring in new legislation to strengthen our recommendations.”
Andy Cooke made three recommendations in the report to drive change in the police service:
Reviewing legislation to make HMICFRS’s remit of inspection clearer and clarifying its power to inspect policing functions delivered by police and crime commissioners;
Re-establishing the role of the inspectors of constabulary in selecting and appointing police chief officers; and
New research into the deterrent value of stop and search and the causes of disproportionality in its use.
“Forces need to get the basics right”
Last year in his first interview after being appointed chief constable, Cooke had told The Times that chief constables needed to “avoid politics with the small p”, follow the law and remember that “different thought” were not an offence: “We’re not the thought police, we follow legislation and we follow the law, simple as that,” he said.
“Policing is busy enough dealing with the serious offences that are going on, busy enough trying to keep people safe.”
In his most recent report he reiterated his position, which could be summarised as going back to basics when it comes to policing.
“The police are not there to be the first port of call for people in mental health crisis or to uphold social justice. They are there to uphold the law,” he said.
Cooke’s call for effective neighbourhood policing and new powers for the inspectors of constabulary in appointing chief constables comes amidst the Met’s withdrawal from mental health calls following the lead of Humberside Police and the discussions around the London Mayor’s controversial proposal to reform Met Police standards by giving chief officers “uncontrolled” powers to dismiss officers, as Police Federation called it.
In his report, Cooke agrees with the decision of withdrawal of police service from mental health calls.
He also echoes Suella Braverman’s recent comment on non-crime hate incidents where the Home Secretary said: “Stopping crime and keeping people safe is not just the police’s top priority, but all that matters. It is a huge challenge that leaves no room for distractions such as politically correct campaigns or telling people not to write disagreeable tweets.”
In the report, Andy Cooke similarly said: “Forces need to show professionalism, get the basics right when it comes to investigating crime, and respond properly when someone dials 999.
“This is what matters most to the communities they serve and this is the way forward for the police to regain the public’s trust.
“The fundamental principle of policing by consent, upon which our police service is built, is at risk – and it is past time to act.”