As you would expect, failings of disclosure were at the top of agenda for this Chief Constables Council. Our criminal justice lead CC Nick Ephgrave and the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders presented an improvement plan across leadership, training, processes and technology. It was clear this a moment for us to lead meaningful changes to deal with a complex and deep-rooted issue; there was commitment from all to make that happen. You find the joint action plan here.
Alison Saunders also led a discussion with Louisa Rolfe, our lead on domestic abuse, on why referrals for domestic abuse have dipped in recent years. Reporting is up and police recorded 10 per cent more offences in 2016/17 than the previous year but referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have fallen by 6 per cent in the same period. Analysis so far suggests there’s no consistent reason for falls. Forces will be looking at their local picture as they update their domestic abuse action plans by April 2018. Some forces had found joint panels with the CPS scrutinising cases against referral criteria successful in boosting referrals.
We spent some time discussing local policing. Chiefs reviewed a new set of neighbourhood policing guidelines developed by College of Policing and the NPCC lead for neighbourhood policing DCC Gavin Stephens working with colleagues and experts across the service. They don’t cover structures or resources as these are matters for chief constables and police and crime commissioners, but they do provide an evidence base, supported with practical examples, to help modernise neighbourhood policing and get the best from local investment. The guidelines are out for consultation before being published in April.
We next heard about work to give a greater voice to our response officers and recognise the value of what they do. ACC Dave Hardcastle has set up a practitioners group for response policing – these are first responders to calls for help from the public dealing with domestic abuse, missing people, people in crisis, violence and even terror attacks. There are 31,000 response officers in England and Wales making up 14 per cent of policing. The new group will ensure response officers have a say in the policies that affect their roles, work with the College of Policing to define and accredit their skills and experience, and ensure they have the right support to help them cope with complex, draining roles.
Director General of Immigration Enforcement, Hugh Ind talked to us about the overlap with his work and ours. An important part of immigration enforcement is tackling the links to organised crime, terrorism and individual offenders within the illegal population – and he told us that they had deported over 6,300 foreign national offenders and disrupted 370 organised crime groups last year.
As well as operational issues, we focused on some of our key relationships and the technology and infrastructure that supports our business. Chiefs viewed demonstrations of technology transformation programmes – like the developing platform for the public to report crime or ask questions consistently wherever they are in the country or enhancements to Child Abuse Images Database.
The new Permanent Secretary at the Home Office Sir Philip Rutnam and the new Chief Executive of the College of Policing Mike Cunningham, both hugely important partners for us, joined us to talk to about shared issues and priorities, and chiefs were pleased to welcome both.
We also invited members of the Crime Reporters Association to join us for a session at Council for the first time. The public benefits from open and transparent professional relationships between our officers and staff at all levels and the media. It is important that chief officers set the tone and ensure that their officers and staff understand the College of Policing’s Media Relations Authorised Professional Practice which supports them in that engagement.
CC Gareth Morgan, our chief officer lead for communications and media issues, assesses the relationship between police and media is routinely positive with regular, professional engagement and I agree. But the 24 hour news cycle, resource constraints and the growth of social and digital media and citizen journalism present challenges as well as opportunities for both the police and the media. It’s important that we maintain a dialogue to work through issues as we did in this session.