It’s now five years since I retired from the police service and in that relatively short period of time policing has changed quite drastically.
The austerity cuts, the creation of Police and Crime Commissioners and the vitriolic attacks on policing by the government and others are just some of the reasons behind this change.
Although I worked under a fairly intensive performance management regime, I am told it does not bear comparison to the level of scrutiny directed towards the officer of today. There is increased oversight ensuring staff fully comply with an ever-changing array of priorities, policies and procedures.
The movements of individual Bobbies are now tracked through devices in vehicles, in their radios and by their use of force IT systems. Far more interactions with the public are recorded on CCTV, body camera and by members of the public, who leap to record police incidents on mobile phones and place them on social media.
I understand this monitoring has raised the professionalism of officers and standards are at an all time high. Should an officer fall below accepted standards there is a greater risk of being dismissed for a matter which in previous years may have received a more lenient sanction. Although it is not as widely recognised as it should be, the current police officers and staff of the Lancashire Constabulary, in general terms, are doing an excellent job, working with far fewer resources than ever before in extremely challenging circumstances.
They really should be given more praise and support than they receive. Realistically that is not going to happen because many politicians, sections of the media and some members of the public do not have an understanding of the totality of the demands facing the police and expect a standard of service that is just not possible.
I have a concern that forces have been operationally weakened, leaving insufficient resources available for policing the existing and developing crime trends, with too many resources abstracted to deal with historic issues.
However, my greatest concern is there is still no strategic plan for the future of policing. I agree with my former colleague Ch Supt Irene Curtis, the 43 force structure is ineffective and is a major policing weakness. I will explain next week why I now believe there should be a single national police service.