Senior police chief says officers should spend more time on core functions of policing
Police officers are spending more time on missing person cases than they are on violent crime, a senior police chief has said.
Sara Thornton, the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, told its annual conference that officers had to focus on the core functions of policing, which is fighting everyday crime.
She said figures from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire Services showed that while violent crime took up 14% of officers’ time, missing people took up 10% more.
Thornton said: “It shows that concerns for safety, missing people and suspicious circumstances now account for 25% of police time. Domestic incidents, not crimes, take up 10% of police time.”
She said data from 23 forces shows that mental health demands on police are rising and they are used as an emergency health service when the NHS is unavailable. “The peak time for incidents is around 4pm Monday to Friday – likely to coincide with when health services close.”
Thornton told police chiefs to focus on core policing amid a funding crisis: “It is this core policing which is seriously stretched. This is surely part of the police covenant with the public?”
She said that while recording misogyny and investigating sex abuse claims where the suspect is dead may be desirable, police forces cannot afford to do this.
Thornton said:“Treating misogyny as a hate crime is a concern for some well-organised campaigning organisations. In July, chiefs debated whether we should record such allegations even when no crime is committed.
“But we do not have the resources to do everything that is desirable and deserving … I want us to solve more burglaries and bear down on violence before we make more records of incidents that are not crimes.”
In an apparent rebuke to the criminal investigation into child abuse claims regarding former prime minister Edward Heath, Thornton said: “Historic investigations are another example of issues that matter very much to some but they undoubtedly take resources away from dealing with crime today. While I understand those who have been harmed seek answers, I remain unconvinced that it is appropriate to commit significant resources investigating allegations against those who have died.”
Thornton, who stands down as chair next year, said: “Neither investigating gender-based hate incidents nor investigating allegations against those who have died are bad things to do necessarily – they just cannot be priorities for a service that is over-stretched. Giving clarity to the public about core policing is a priority – and it has not received enough attention in recent years.”
The home secretary, Sajid Javid, told police while he would try to secure more funding, there was more they could still do to improve that did not rely on more resources.
He said over the last three years police had an extra £1bn in funding, and some forces were more effective than others: “This can’t all be blamed on funding,”, he told the NPCC and the Association of Police and CrimeCommissioners.