A new and volatile context

Chapter summary

The most obvious shift in policing over the last year has, of course, been in funding. Through these fiscal constraints we are seeing increasingly difficult choices and growing strain on leaders to make the best decisions.

In 2020, it is increasingly difficult to talk about UK policing as a single entity. UK policing still undoubtedly has considerable shared culture and history. Staff still regularly (though decreasingly) move between areas and nations, sharing ideas along the way. But differences are growing in terms of funding, workforce mix, and policy.

Increased divergence and fiscal constraints

Per capita police funding varies significantly by nation and region, and our interviews made clear that there are also differences in priorities across geographies. There was a general divide between rural and urban forces in terms of the crime problems they were seeking to tackle, however we found smaller differences in the choices PCCs and chief constables are making in terms of policing priorities and operational strategy across all forces.

Evolving patterns of crime and demand

The big changes in patterns of demand are more consistent across forces. All areas are still grappling with the same fundamental long-term shift that has required policing to span three spheres: public, private and virtual.

Whilst online crime has arguably not yet met the response it merits, it is still absorbing increasing amounts of police time.

The widely reported and troubling resurgence of serious violence means that the approach of moving resources away from the public sphere towards private and virtual spheres may no longer be tenable.

And policing’s role as the ‘service of last resort’ is another source of strain. For example, the police report increased demands relating to mental health crises, car accidents and protecting the vulnerable, such as those missing from care homes.

Increasingly difficult choices & growing strain

Our previous report showed a service that was working hard to minimise the impact of funding reductions on citizens’ services, but it also showed a service under growing strain. With shrinking resources and an expanding mission, leaders are required to make difficult, sometimes impossible, choices about what to prioritise.

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A new and volatile context

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