Labour’s Community Policing Guarantee

by | Oct 18, 2023 | 0 comments

Professor Geoff Pearson, N8 PRP Co-Director, comments on the Labour Party’s ‘Community policing guarantee’.

Extra funding for the College of Policing – and in particular to train police analysts – is to be welcomed. Evidence-based policing, which goes beyond mere “hotspots policing” or “problem solving policing”, is key to ensuring that limited resources are employed more effectively to meet the needs of communities in both the short and long term. There also needs to be a commitment to support academic engagement and research co-production and knowledge exchange with the police.

It is interesting to see a focus on the offence of shoplifting. The real challenge to the police response to incidents of shoplifting is simply one of diminished resources. In many parts of the country there are currently not enough response officers to deal with the crimes that are reported, and this resource problem has been exacerbated by cuts to other public services supporting vulnerable members of the community, which has left many officers doing jobs that were previously the role of other organisations. Where the police can only respond to a small number of crimes being committed, it makes sense that they prioritise high-risk crimes where people’s lives may be at risk – such as domestic assaults – rather than low-level property offences. It’s not clear why a new offence of assault against retail workers is necessary, given that assault against anyone is already an offence.

While police “on the beat” – which typically refers to police on foot patrol – is a poor method of responding to crime, most forces and communities would welcome a restoration of effective neighbourhood policing which is able to respond to community concerns, negotiate solutions to ongoing problems and conflicts, and provide proactive rather than purely reactive responses to crime.

I’d expect the local dedicated leads on anti-social behaviour to form part of the neighbourhood policing drive. It’s what neighbourhood officers spend a lot of their time doing. However, no more new powers are needed to prevent repeat ASB and public nuisance perpetrators – we already have a plethora of civil preventative powers, such as Community Protection Notices, Dispersal Zones, Criminal Behaviour Orders, and Public Space Protection Orders which are used extensively, and often controversially.

Regarding plans to ‘put communities back at the heart of policing’, forces already engage in initiatives such as inviting lay observers to attend shifts and creating community scrutiny panels to observe body-worn camera footage from stop and search encounters, and the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners was designed to allow more locally focused strategies. But many senior officers complain about national “directives” from government making their day-to-day jobs more difficult, so moving away from this type of centralized “one-size-fits-all” approach is likely to be welcomed.