From Liverpool to Cambridge – another busy week

Another busy week with quite a bit of travel. Up early on Monday morning to travel to Liverpool Cathedral to talk at a breakfast meeting of faith and civic leaders. They had asked me to talk about the way we judge people in society following talks I have given elsewhere.

I have never hid the fact that I am a practising Catholic and church groups are often interested in what dilemmas that causes in my role as chief constable. I talked about how notions of good and evil are too simplistic to describe many of the people we deal with who often have had a difficult upbringing and suffer from problems of poor relationships, drug and alcohol problems and low self-esteem.

You can name any social problem and it invariably features much more highly in the prison population. For instance while about one per cent of the general population has been in care over sixty per cent of the women in prison have been in care at some time in their lives. So while we need to lock people up for serious offences prison does not have a great record in dealing with the underlying causes of a person’s offending and there is a huge amount of money spent on those who go in and out of the system.

I also talked about the many local community groups, some linked to churches who make a big difference in local areas through drawing in local volunteers who themselves then get great personal worth from volunteering. Often these groups produce better long term solutions than some of the professionals.  We now have well over a thousand volunteers working with GMP including 700 Special Constables and 300 youth cadets.

After the talk and questions it was off to Cambridge University to speak at an international conference on Evidence Based Policing. This is about bringing together evidence from trials of different initiatives carried out by officers assisted by academics and experts in research. I am also on the committee which advices the University on its Master’s programme which attracts officers from around the world.

As money gets tighter and policing more complex it is more important that police forces evaluate the impact of what they are doing and constantly look for new ways to improve the protection of the public. There are some really good projects under way looking at different ways of dealing with domestic abuse, the effectiveness of different patrol strategies and different ways of reducing burglaries.

We had dinner that night in Queens College talking to colleagues from a number of different countries and first thing next morning it was back to Manchester for our regular chief officer meeting. After reviewing current serious incidents and talking about recent and upcoming press coverage we received updates on all our current change projects which are all there basically to help us to make the reductions in staffing created by the budget reductions over the next two years.

Overall the current concern is the increase in demand we are seeing at a time when our staffing is reducing. We have huge numbers of incidents to deal with which always go up when the weather is warmer and of course we are entering our main annual leave period. At the end of the meeting we specifically discussed the increase in the number of rapes we are recording, up by around sixty per cent compared to two years ago. We agreed that we would need to find more staffing in the short term and put in other measures to give us a wider understanding of the demand pressures on the force.

I then had one to one meetings with individual chief officer colleagues and a meeting with the force solicitor on a particular case before going to a school governors meeting that evening getting home in time to witness the destruction of Brazilian football in the World Cup.

On Wednesday morning I visited the Serious Sexual Offences Unit to talk to the staff dealing with the huge increase in rapes reported to us. I talked to them about the additional help we would be giving them and how we could speed up the decision making on cases being investigated. GMP has the highest conviction rate for rape in the North West but that is still only about thirty per cent so when it is clear that a case won’t be prosecuted we need to make that decision for the benefit of everyone involved. I can understand however why officers are reluctant to do this because number one they want to keep trying but also they fear that they will be criticised if the suspect attacks someone else or the victim makes a complaint. It is really important that the police are accountable but we also need an atmosphere where staff feel they can use their professional judgement and discretion. I will be putting additional legal expertise into the unit to support them in making those decisions.  

I was then engaged in an hours conference call with a Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and various other chief constables about the long term impact of the budget reductions on the service and what the future looks like with further cuts. At the moment there is no forecast when the cuts will stop and the most I can hope for is a flat lining. This is all part of work HMIC is doing on police funding which will be subject of a national report later in the month.

Back to headquarters then for more meetings and telephone interviews with the New York Times and then The Sun on the Syrian issue and phone calls with colleagues dealing with child abuse allegations and the national coverage of the paedophile issues.

In the afternoon I appeared at Liverpool Crown Court because the force is being prosecuted for a breach of the Health and Safety Act following the death of a suspect in a robbery investigation. There are reporting restrictions on the case so I can say no more.

Thursday started with a meeting with the Police Federation Chairman and Secretary where we discussed a range of issues including the national changes to the way the Federation operates many of them driven forward by the GMP branch of the Federation.

I then met two former colleagues who worked with me when I was the Director of the Strategic Command Course at the Police Leadership College at Bramshill. We talked through the various challenges facing GMP and how the way the force operates and its internal culture will have to fundamentally change given the further cuts in funding we face and the growing complexity of the demand upon us (as evidenced by the huge increase in rapes).

We then went into a meeting with the force leadership team (basically our chief superintendents and other senior directors) where I updated them about current developments and reminded everyone of the commitments we had already made to do things differently and how in particular we will be reducing the number of management levels in the force. We talked through the increase in demand and the difficulty of getting messages though to our staff when there is so much uncertainty about and when some of the messages are so complicated. Having a flatter organisation with fewer levels would make that easier. We also talked through the way we work with other agencies and the way we will have to work differently to deal with the growing number of vulnerable people in our society.

I left the group to do more work on this and headed off to Piccadilly Station to catch the train to London. This was for a ‘roundtable’ meeting with the Home Secretary other police leaders and community representatives such as Baroness Doreen Lawrence mother of Stephen Lawrence. The subject was the recruitment of a more diverse workforce to policing particularly more ethnic minority staff. This was a two hour meeting which covered a range of issues. Some were about the process of recruitment and the impact of current employment law and some was about the experience of black people and how some were put off joining the police because of their experience of stop and search.

There are two sides to this. On the recruitment side I have said before that this is not about political correctness or targets but about an operational need for more people from ethnic minorities who understand local communities and can build trust and gather intelligence. I am in favour of a change in employment law which would allow us to balance the rights of the person applying with the wider needs of the force and the community for a more diverse workforce. Of course part of the problem we face is that we are not recruiting many new officers at the moment about 80 for the coming year compared to 600 in the years of plenty. On the experience of black people there has been a significant reduction in the use of stop and search and it is now more targeted towards those that are persistent offenders and where there is intelligence that they are offending again.

The main issue for me is that policing is attractive to the most talented, most committed people out there; that we are seen as a modern progressive organisation which allows its staff to be individuals and gets the best out of them for the benefit of the public.

After this meeting I had further meetings and phone calls about child abuse investigations and popped into our national press office as I was the national lead for ACPO last week as our President Sir Hugh Orde was on leave. I stayed overnight in London at my mother’s and on Friday attended the start of a national conference on foreign offenders. We arrest a lot more people now who do not hold British passports and are from all over the world. This produces particular challenges in getting timely intelligence about them from their country of origin and to establish their immigration status. There is now much closer working with the Borders Agency and we now have a joint team in Manchester.

Following this it was off to New Scotland Yard for a meeting with a small number of other chief constables who have national responsibility for counter terrorism. We reviewed the current situation which focussed on the situation in Syria and Iraq and recent arrests and cases of British subjects travelling abroad. We reviewed the current and future financial position of the network and the work we are undertaking to ensure that we are in the best position to respond to the threats of the future. Counter terrorism is an emotive but also a high risk area of policing. It has a complex balance between the security of the country and the rights of the citizen. It requires a very clear link between the international nature of the threat and the confidence of local people and communities for what we do so that we are able to gather local intelligence and information and so there is support for the enforcement action we need to take. At the same time the expertise we have to develop means we must collaborate with other law enforcement agencies so that we have the best capability and capacity for the benefit of the public.

Late afternoon I was back at Euston for the train back up north. Another packed week but at least no GMP activities this weekend. My main concern is the increasing demand on the force and the strain it places on the workforce a subject I will return to next week.

Safety in Manchester city centre

Last week was a bit less hectic than the one before but still lots of complex issues to deal with.

There was clearly a lot of coverage on the story about Manchester City Centre and whether it is safe late at night or not. This followed comments by Inspector Ian Hanson the chairman of the GMP Police Federation (which for those who don’t know is the equivalent of a police trade union). In some ways this is a good news story, Manchester City Centre is thriving with new hotels, restaurants and bars opening all the time.

The workload on the police continues throughout the night with, on some nights, the busiest hour being 6 till 7 in the morning due to the impact of those leaving the clubs trying to find taxis etc. More people are coming to Manchester for the weekend driven in part by the huge interest in football. 

The problem is the level of staffing in Greater Manchester Police is falling so we have increased demand and fewer officers.

This is not just a matter of crime. Crime overall has fallen in the City Centre over time. We have worked closely with the City Council and the clubs and there is improved cooperation with the door staff and better use of CCTV. At the end of the day however you need police officers on the ground to deal with disorder and to ensure public safety. When fights or disputes break out large numbers of onlookers often gather and things can escalate quickly unless sufficient officers get there.

While people who deserve arrest need to be arrested this leads to fewer officers on the ground while they deal with the arrest. 

This is a long term issue about the impact of the alcohol industry on public services particularly the police and the NHS. I have been talking about this for many years. There have been many promises of more controls on alcohol abuse but very few have actually been delivered.

To be fair the overall level of consumption is falling but there is still huge amounts of cheap alcohol being aggressively promoted and every town and city in the UK has a problem with late night disorder created by those who have drunk too much. Over time alcohol has become stronger, cheaper and more available. 

We have a very good relationship with Manchester City Council and local councillors understand the nature of the problem. We agree there will need to be more measures to control the level of disorder and improve the way we all work together to deal with it.

We need to find a way for some of the money generated by the alcohol industry to flow down to front line policing and the front line of the health service. There are practical issues to be worked through on how we run the weekend policing operations, more late night transport and more control over problem premises. We need a City Centre facility to handle drunks. We are getting great support from our volunteer special constables and a team of volunteer “street angels” is being created to help vulnerable people on the street. The problem is not going away however and the overall number of officers will continue to decline. We all want the City Centre to continue to grow but we all also want there to be a safe atmosphere late at night with appropriate standards of behaviour so we don’t descend to the level of the drunks and the over boisterous.



So, last Monday started with a blood donation then a meeting with a local business leaders group about an event they want to hold with me at Police HQ, a visit to our Legal Services department, a meeting with Microsoft about how we are going to improve the use of the products we have already bought from them and a meeting with Unison representatives. 



Tuesday started with a briefing on current force performance then the regular Tuesday chief officer meeting and a meeting with our head of counter terrorism about the Syria situation. I took the afternoon off and in the evening I returned for an interview with DM digital TV which is an international Muslim channel based in Cheetham Hill.



Wednesday started with authorisations for specialist operations.

I then held a meeting with a number of bodies concerned with police welfare. I continue to be concerned about the level of sickness in the force and the way we deal with staff who have long term illnesses. At the meeting were The Police Federation, Unison, Superintendents Association, The Credit Union, Police Mutual Assurance Society and the Benevolent Fund along with representatives of our own welfare department and Occupational Health. All there agreed we want to work together to ensure we improve the level of health screening for our staff, access to physiotherapy and counselling and access to financial advice. We know a small minority of staff get into serious difficulties using pay day loans. We are also regularly losing colleagues to cancer and so we are exploring whether improved screening could help discover cases earlier. 


Wednesday continued with a meeting called JNCC which is the regular official meeting between the Chief Constable and the Police Federation and Superintendents Association. We discussed a number of issues concerning the impact of the budget reductions and the force change programme. I gave them an update on the financial performance for the force during the last financial year. I told them about the plans to open up some promotion opportunities and to recruit at least 80 new police offices over the coming year.

I then had a meeting with the conductor of our band about Friday night’s concert and then presented certificates to the parents of a woman murdered by her partner who have helped us in our training programmes. When we are doing training for our staff there is little more impactive than hearing from people who have been directly affected by violent crime. 



Thursday started with a two hour conference call about College of Policing Business and then a visit to Salford Museum to view a display created for the fortieth anniversary of the creation of GMP. It was also good to see some of the other displays. I did not know that Emily Pankhurst was born in Salford so you learn something new every day. The GMP display had been created by a couple of our local staff who had worked with Steve Gerrard (not the footballer but the local neighbourhood inspector).

I then had one of my regular meetings with the Police and Crime Commissioner to discuss a number of current issues then went out on patrol with PC Darren Prince, a response officer in North Manchester. We dealt with begging in the City Centre, a dispute between a Somalian man and a Palestinian man in Piccadilly Gardens and the sudden death of an elderly man. 

The man who had died suffered from a number of illnesses but had not seen a doctor for some time. For this reason the case becomes a case for the Coroner until the cause of death can be established and that is the reason why the police are called. Paramedics had already attended and pronounced that the man was dead and so we had to complete a statement from the son, carry out some preliminary enquiries into what had happened and then wait for the undertaker.



We then dealt with a case involving a missing young girl. The girl’s mother was in custody having been arrested in York and she was concerned about who had picked up her daughter from school. We made a number of enquiries amongst other family members but did not get very far. We then received more information from York that the mother had overstayed her permission to be in the country and that the daughter had entered the country on a “cloned” visa and so both were liable to deportation. It was not surprising therefore, that other family members did not want to tell us where the daughter was.

At 11.15 we handed the enquiry on to other officers, while dealing with this we had also come across a case of a man threatened with a knife which I took details of. 

Friday started with a an interview with Radio 5 Live again on Syria, then a meeting with a local charity Reclaim on their plans to open a “safe place” for vulnerable young people in Manchester. I then visited St Joseph’s School in Longsight to talk to them about my job and a recent visit the class made to one of our disused custody centres. There were some great questions about crime and about what it was like to lead 12000 people.

I then did a TV interview about Syria and then held a meeting with two Manchester councillors about late night policing in the City Centre. Next was a meeting with other chief executives from Greater Manchester including a report on how we are dealing with child sexual exploitation.

I called in to talk to officers at Bootle Street Police Station then in the evening we had the Chief Constables Summer Concert which raised about £2000 for the charity Retrak. We had 200 local people at the concert along with a number of local dignitaries who all had a good time entertained by the GMP band (which is made up of volunteers), pupils from St Edmunds Primary School and the Cheshire Chord Choir.



On Saturday I spoke at the Alzheimer’s Show at Events City about how GMP is trying to be a more dementia friendly organisation, the challenges of the ageing population and my own experiences as my mother suffers from dementia.

On Sunday I went to Rochdale to attend the briefing for the Tour de France which passed through a small bit of the borough above Littleborough. It was impressive to see so many volunteer special constables there along with some of our volunteer youth cadets.

Sunday mornings used to be a quiet time in policing with shops shut and a slow start to the day.

We often used the first few hours to clean the police cars. This is certainly no longer the case and when I went into Rochdale police station at 8 45am some of the night duty staff were still there completing paperwork and there were a considerable number of prisoners to be dealt with along with a number of outstanding incidents. A rape and been reported and so there was the scene of the crime to be guarded until Scenes of Crime staff had competed their work. I then visited HQ to speak to staff who were overseeing the Tour de France operation and to get a briefing on a recent terrorist related arrest.

Over recent weeks we have been dealing with the disappearance of 16 year old twins from Manchester who we know have flown to Turkey and are probably now across the border in Syria. They are at great personal risk and understandably their families are very worried. We had not told the press because of the risk they were under but the story had broken in one of the Sunday newspapers. This sort of case shows why we are taking the situation in Syria so seriously.



From my time on patrol, the visit to Rochdale and other stuff I am picking up I am concerned at the level of workload on front line staff particularly the number of incidents to be resourced. Over the coming months we will be monitoring the state of the queues and issues such as the number of neighbourhood officers abstracted on response.

We are clearly entering the main leave period and the busy summer months. There are some important projects looking at how we will have to change the way we handle incidents in the future as the number of officers continues to reduce. There are still lots of practical things we can do, better working with other agencies and better use of technology.

The blunt fact is that there are certain types of jobs that we have attended in the past which we will have to deal with differently in the future. 


A week in the life of a Chief Constable

What does a chief constable actually do? Well last week was a bit more frantic than most but on the other hand gives an idea of how I spend my time and the range of issues I deal with.

Last Monday started with leaving the house at about 6.15am to get to MediaCity for an ITV interview on the threat from the situation in the Middle East and how to prevent British people from travelling out there to take part in the conflict. Next was a quick change from uniform to a suit and then across to Piccadilly station to catch a train to London. There was then a meeting at the ACPO office with representatives of Police and Crime Commissioners on various national issues. I then fitted in two more television interviews BBC and Sky before making my way to a meeting with fellow chief constables. That made a total of eight TV interviews and two radio interviews on that subject over that weekend. Next there was a two hour meeting between chief constables, the Home Secretary and other Home Office ministers. We covered a number of subjects including the changing nature of demand on the police and the threat from internet based crime.

The Home Secretary gave an input in which she emphasized that the tight control on public spending would continue and therefore more savings would be required. From this meeting it was on to an evening session run by an organisation called City Forum where I was speaking about policing as a profession and how we need to achieve ever higher standards of expertise and professional ethics. There were a number of other speakers there from other professions as well as the Chair and Chief Executive of the College of Policing. I sat next to Vic Goddard who was the head teacher featured in the Channel 4 programme Educating Essex who I found inspirational in his drive to get his students to believe in themselves.

I stayed overnight at my mother’s  house in Essex and the following morning it was back into London for a series of meetings on terrorism issues including the Police Counter Terrorism Board which is chaired by the Minister for Security and where we are held to account for our performance and our use of the funding provided. It was then back on the train to Manchester; a chance to get changed, and then off to a charity event organised by the Manchester City Centre Crime Panel in aid of the Children’s Hospital. The crime prevention panel brings together businesses in the City Centre to work on various projects to reduce crime and in particular supports public information campaigns.

On Wednesday it was in to police headquarters to do some signing and sort a few things out before driving to Preston to meet other chief officers from the police forces in the North West. With the budget pressures on all of us it is important that forces collaborate to share specialist functions. So we all supported further work on how to share firearms capability and strengthen the fight against organised crime. We also have a regional motorway team in the North West and the Underwater Search Unit. The meeting also received an update in the national efforts to combat Internet fraud and a report from Action Fraud which receives such reports from the public and businesses and decides which force will investigate them. It is fair to say that the report was worrying given the increasing level of Internet crime and the attacks from overseas on computer systems. There is need for increasing national capability and just no sense in forces trying to develop this separately. In the afternoon the chief constables met with the police and crime commissioners from the North West to discuss oversight of the various regional functions and a number of national issues. I then had a phone call with the Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper to answer some questions she had about people travelling to Syria.

On Thursday I was back in my own office for meetings with various people and updates on force operations and then onto a meeting with the new High Sheriff of Greater Manchester Paul Lee. The High Sheriff is appointed for a year and has a number of functions particularly supporting voluntary effort so we discussed how his work during the year could support our efforts with the community to reduce crime and disorder. I also met a local businessman who does fundraising for the NSPCC Childline about how the force and the charity can work closer together and about charity fundraising in general. In the afternoon the Police Minister paid a short visit to the force and so I spent some time discussing current issues with him. I then had a flag raising ceremony to publicise the force’s support for Armed Forces Day and then did I a radio interview with the BBC Asian Network.

On Thursday evening I went to a reception given by Churches Together for the mayors of Greater Manchester. The Bishop of Manchester David Walker was the host. At the meeting I proposed a joint statement by faith and civic leaders against hate crime. This was driven by a number of recent incidents particularly the desecration of Jewish graves in Blackley. The statement was supported by everyone there.

Friday morning was devoted to AGMA the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities basically the local councils, the police, fire service and NHS. We have an ambitious programme of how we can have greater impact on the various economic and social challenges facing Greater Manchester and how we can work much closer together. We are all dealing with the same families, the same vulnerable people, the same streets and communities. From all our work we have learnt that a relatively small number of families place a significant burden on all the public services and we must integrate our work in dealing with them to reduce duplication but also to actually try and solve their problems. One of the big challenges is on adult social care and the growing number of elderly people. During the morning I gave an update to council leaders on the performance of GMP and current policing issues. I also discussed the proposed statement on hate crime with them. I explained how our current top priority is people being attacked in their own homes both in terms of domestic violence between people known to one another and attacks by intruders. Afterwards I had meetings with individual chief executives on some local issues including the protests against the building of a new mosque in Bolton.

It was then off to Bolton Police Station to talk to some staff there and then go out on foot patrol with one of the local officers in the town centre. We talked about the current problems of crime in the town and how officers are working with the shops to reduce shoplifting. Bolton is changing and lots of new people have moved into the town some are immigrants and asylum seekers and some are students as the university expands. I could see how that created concerns for some local people and pressure on services. We also visited the skateboard park which is to be expanded and the young lads using it acknowledged that the police officer I was with had played a key part in getting the new work carried out.

Friday evening was the Chief Constable’s Excellence Awards held at the Midland Hotel Manchester all paid for by businesses and other organisations who support the event.  The staff present had been nominated by their colleagues for their dedication and commitment in a number of categories such as police officer of the year, PCSO of the year, the partnership award and leadership. The bravery award went to two officers who were attacked by a man with a knife with one of them being stabbed a number of times in the head. It was a great night, very uplifting to be able to celebrate the work of staff who take their responsibilities to the public very seriously. Andy Tattersall won the lifetime achiever award for having investigated around 400 murders. Special Constable Lyndon Riley was recognised for 45 years of service voluntary service. I was also very pleased to recognise the work of the team who have recruited and trained our 300 new volunteer youth cadets.

I was at home during the day on Saturday a chance to catch up with some chores and also to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday. In the evening it was off to Old Trafford Cricket Ground for the Urban Hero Awards recognising young people who have overcome adversity to make a difference in their communities. The event was run by the Message Trust a remarkable Christian organisation started by a local businessman who sold his clothing factory and started a band to spread the Christian message to young people. The Trust now works in schools and prisons, runs youth buses and has converted a disused factory into an enterprise centre for offenders coming out of prison who want to rebuild their lives and get a trade. There were about 700 people there and I said a few words at the beginning about the importance of local community effort and the need for churches in particular to give a lead in helping those who are in need.  An inspiring end to a busy week.

Throughout the week there were many emails and phone calls to deal with and updates received on current operations. It is a 24hour a day responsibility as chief constable but you will see that it is a huge privilege to see so many different aspects of community life in Greater Manchester and to have so many dedicated highly professional staff. There are inevitably many meetings at force, regional and national level. This is a busy time of the year for events and it is unusual for me to be out five nights in one week and not a good example in terms of work life balance but as we get towards the summer holidays I know it will calm down a bit and I will get more time to get out on patrol which is the part of the job I enjoy the most.

 

Sir Peter Fahy

Chief Constable

Greater Manchester Police

 

The changes in Policing

Some years ago there was quite a debate about whether we were a police service or a police force. In the past it was a lot clearer we were there to enforce the law so we were a force. Now the mission of policing has changed so much it is not so clear. In addition to what most would see as our core role of dealing with crime police have always had a duty to protect the public from harm and be there to assist people in immediate need of help. Now, however this role of protecting the vulnerable dominates our work so that investigating crime has become a subsidiary activity. So while recorded crime has halved in Greater Manchester over the past ten years the overall demand on policing has not reduced because this other aspect of our work has filled the gap.

It feels to us that the number of vulnerable people we have dealings with is increasing, as is the complexity. I have written before about the impact of mental health cases on policing but we are also very much concerned about vulnerable young people and at the other end of the spectrum the number of elderly people there are concerns over. We have a growing awareness of the problem of people trafficking and vulnerable people trapped in abusive relationships. Each one of these cases involves a real human being in distress invariably with complex needs. In trying to protect a vulnerable person we obviously have to accept their rights and wishes and they understandably may not wish to take the sort of drastic action which may ensure their safety in a high risk situation. So policing more and more has become one of the caring professions tackling a wide range of social problems.

This change in the nature of our work creates many operational challenges and makes risk identification and management one of our key activities. The situation is made more difficult by the funding pressures not only on GMP but on all the agencies we work with. The growing number of elderly people needing care is probably the biggest challenge facing public services as the potential cost will eclipse other priorities. All this is happening at a time when the public’s expectations are growing and where there is less public tolerance of agencies failing to protect. When a tragedy occurs there is an understandable cry for someone to be held accountable and certainly no suggestion that with lower public spending risks that tragedy may increase. If anything agencies such as the police are expected to provide a higher standard of care.

I would argue that this is the context in which the debate about public protest needs to be seen. The particular protest we are dealing with now is that involving drilling on the Barton Moss site in Salford. The drilling is fiercely opposed by some who see it as a precursor to fracking on the site. They feel very strongly about the issue as many do and a group of protestors are camped out on the site and are joined every day by others. There are approximately 800 lorry movements to get on the site to enable the drilling activity to take place and the main aim of the protestors is to try and prevent these deliveries from happening.

The role of the police in this situation is to facilitate lawful protest, to allow others to carry out lawful activities such as delivering to the site and to prevent a breach of the peace. We do not take sides. Police should never make a judgement about the worth of any protest, it is our job to achieve this balance between the right of the protesters and the rights of others who want to go about their lawful business.

This policing of this protest has cost more than £800,000 so far. Some people probably believe that this is funded directly by the Government but it is not it comes from our normal budget. This is where my dilemma as the head of a caring agency comes in. This is money which could have been spent on more operations to protect vulnerable people or reduce crime. We have a considerable number of crime investigations which we struggle to staff and calls we cannot get to as quickly as we would like and the money spent on policing protest has to be seen in that light.

Now others would argue that this it is not right to make this link. Protest is a fundamental human right and crucial to the health of a democracy. Therefore the police should always treat it as a high priority work that enables protest to take place. GMP have given a very high priority to the Barton Moss protest but it does mean that other areas of policing have suffered. British policing does not have a standing squad of officers to deal with these events. We are not like the French who would just call the CRS (their riot squad) out of their barracks to police an event such as this. GMP has the Tactical Aid Unit which is there to provide additional help to local officers with unusual incidents but they still have lots of other things they could be doing. The majority of the officers we have used on the protest have been local neighbourhood officers who have been called off their beats. As a police leader who has to cover all the various demands on policing yes I wish there was a way for a protest like this to be carried out and a crucial area of public policy to be debated without the need for police officers to be there at all.

The protesters at Barton Moss are clear that theirs is a peaceful protest. They will peacefully obstruct the passage of lorries on to the site for example and this will bring them into conflict with the police officers trying to allow the lorries to pass along the road at very slow speed. I expect GMP officers to show restraint and use the minimum of force but there is no easy way to remove someone from a position that they are resisting being moved from and it creates the conditions where emotions are raised and where injuries may occur when there is lots of pushing and jostling going on. On some protests where one clearly defined group is organising the protest the police can negotiate with the organisers to agree a route and the way the protest will be conducted but there is no obligation on protesters to do this and on Barton Moss such an agreement has not been possible. I understand that some protesters want to portray the police as taking sides and in effect defending the current system but I repeat we do not want to there and we are trying to balance the rights of all involved.

The site at Barton Moss is open to the public as a footpath and anyone can see the operation taking place and observe the police action. Members of the media are there every day and the protesters themselves film everything we do. I am talking to the Police and Crime Commissioner about how we can strengthen independent oversight of what we are doing and the tactics we use because we have nothing to hide. We would rather not be there and just feel stuck in the middle between the businesses involved and the protestors and also mindful of the rights of local people and other people who would like to use our services.

Some years ago there was quite a debate about whether we were a police service or a police force. In the past it was a lot clearer we were there to enforce the law so we were a force. Now the mission of policing has changed so much it is not so clear. In addition to what most would see as our core role of dealing with crime police have always had a duty to protect the public from harm and be there to assist people in immediate need of help. Now, however this role of protecting the vulnerable dominates our work so that investigating crime has become a subsidiary activity. So while recorded crime has halved in Greater Manchester over the past ten years the overall demand on policing has not reduced because this other aspect of our work has filled the gap.

It feels to us that the number of vulnerable people we have dealings with is increasing, as is the complexity. I have written before about the impact of mental health cases on policing but we are also very much concerned about vulnerable young people and at the other end of the spectrum the number of elderly people there are concerns over. We have a growing awareness of the problem of people trafficking and vulnerable people trapped in abusive relationships. Each one of these cases involves a real human being in distress invariably with complex needs. In trying to protect a vulnerable person we obviously have to accept their rights and wishes and they understandably may not wish to take the sort of drastic action which may ensure their safety in a high risk situation. So policing more and more has become one of the caring professions tackling a wide range of social problems.

This change in the nature of our work creates many operational challenges and makes risk identification and management one of our key activities. The situation is made more difficult by the funding pressures not only on GMP but on all the agencies we work with. The growing number of elderly people needing care is probably the biggest challenge facing public services as the potential cost will eclipse other priorities. All this is happening at a time when the public’s expectations are growing and where there is less public tolerance of agencies failing to protect. When a tragedy occurs there is an understandable cry for someone to be held accountable and certainly no suggestion that with lower public spending risks that tragedy may increase. If anything agencies such as the police are expected to provide a higher standard of care.

I would argue that this is the context in which the debate about public protest needs to be seen. The particular protest we are dealing with now is that involving drilling on the Barton Moss site in Salford. The drilling is fiercely opposed by some who see it as a precursor to fracking on the site. They feel very strongly about the issue as many do and a group of protestors are camped out on the site and are joined every day by others. There are approximately 800 lorry movements to get on the site to enable the drilling activity to take place and the main aim of the protestors is to try and prevent these deliveries from happening.

The role of the police in this situation is to facilitate lawful protest, to allow others to carry out lawful activities such as delivering to the site and to prevent a breach of the peace. We do not take sides. Police should never make a judgement about the worth of any protest, it is our job to achieve this balance between the right of the protesters and the rights of others who want to go about their lawful business.

This policing of this protest has cost more than £800,000 so far. Some people probably believe that this is funded directly by the Government but it is not it comes from our normal budget. This is where my dilemma as the head of a caring agency comes in. This is money which could have been spent on more operations to protect vulnerable people or reduce crime. We have a considerable number of crime investigations which we struggle to staff and calls we cannot get to as quickly as we would like and the money spent on policing protest has to be seen in that light.

Now others would argue that this it is not right to make this link. Protest is a fundamental human right and crucial to the health of a democracy. Therefore the police should always treat it as a high priority work that enables protest to take place. GMP have given a very high priority to the Barton Moss protest but it does mean that other areas of policing have suffered. British policing does not have a standing squad of officers to deal with these events. We are not like the French who would just call the CRS (their riot squad) out of their barracks to police an event such as this. GMP has the Tactical Aid Unit which is there to provide additional help to local officers with unusual incidents but they still have lots of other things they could be doing. The majority of the officers we have used on the protest have been local neighbourhood officers who have been called off their beats. As a police leader who has to cover all the various demands on policing yes I wish there was a way for a protest like this to be carried out and a crucial area of public policy to be debated without the need for police officers to be there at all.

The protesters at Barton Moss are clear that theirs is a peaceful protest. They will peacefully obstruct the passage of lorries on to the site for example and this will bring them into conflict with the police officers trying to allow the lorries to pass along the road at very slow speed. I expect GMP officers to show restraint and use the minimum of force but there is no easy way to remove someone from a position that they are resisting being moved from and it creates the conditions where emotions are raised and where injuries may occur when there is lots of pushing and jostling going on. On some protests where one clearly defined group is organising the protest the police can negotiate with the organisers to agree a route and the way the protest will be conducted but there is no obligation on protesters to do this and on Barton Moss such an agreement has not been possible. I understand that some protesters want to portray the police as taking sides and in effect defending the current system but I repeat we do not want to there and we are trying to balance the rights of all involved.

The site at Barton Moss is open to the public as a footpath and anyone can see the operation taking place and observe the police action. Members of the media are there every day and the protesters themselves film everything we do. I am talking to the Police and Crime Commissioner about how we can strengthen independent oversight of what we are doing and the tactics we use because we have nothing to hide. We would rather not be there and just feel stuck in the middle between the businesses involved and the protestors and also mindful of the rights of local people and other people who would like to use our services.

Sir Peter Fahy
Chief Constable
Greater Manchester Police

Another New Year on Patrol

Another New Year’s Eve spent out on patrol. This has been a bit of tradition for me since about 1996 and something which on the whole I always enjoy. Policing has developed in many ways but the core is being out there on operational duty serving the public on what we now call the ‘front line’. Over the years policing New Year’s Eve has not changed that much although it goes on a bit longer because of extended licensing hours. Most of policing on New Year’s Eve is about people who have drunk too much and are acting stupidly but there is always the aspect that at important times of the year when people spend more time together emotions become heightened and things are said and done with drink that are often bitterly regretted in the cold light of New Year’s Day.

This year I was out on patrol with the response team in Oldham going from incident to incident from 10pm till about 4.30am. I was impressed by the number of police officers and Special Constables on duty but the sheer number of incidents quickly uses them up. There is huge strain on our staff who answer the calls and have to deploy staff to incidents. Between midnight and 4am we recorded more than 1200 incidents and dealt with more by advice over the phone. It was also a very busy night in the custody centres with our cells close to capacity.

The night started with a report of a young child in the street in pyjamas and then moved on to various disturbances, fights in pubs and domestic abuse incidents. We went a couple of times to a house where a party was been hosted by a couple of young people who seemed to have invited around 50 of their mates. The parents had gone off to London and would have a shock on their return given the state of the carpets and the front lawn. The party goers were a bit rowdy as 50 people in a house will be but all dispersed peacefully.

One call was to a man who said he was suicidal following a row with his girlfriend and was heading to a motorway bridge. We are getting a number of calls like this at the moment and again times like New Year’s Eve can heighten emotions. We eventually found which bridge he was talking about and managed to move him away from the bridge. There then followed a process of negotiation with the mental health team as to whether they could help and also a conversation with his girlfriend to see whether the relationship could be repaired. This all takes time on a busy evening but at its heart is a vulnerable person going through a crisis. The officers have to be sure that he is okay before he is left or we will be blamed should a tragedy occur afterwards. One consideration is do you shut the motorway. This is not easy to do. The motorway is a dangerous place and motorway officers are thin on the ground at the best of times. Thankfully we did not have to do it on this occasion.

Another call took us to a house where the son of the family was demanding entry but his parents did not want him in because of previous violence and a complex family relationship. The son was found hiding in the back garden nursing a large bottle of cider at 3am. You could feel the pain of the parents that things had come to this but the lad was sent on his way to hopefully find some space on the floor of a mate’s house.

On the way back from that job we came across an altercation outside a pizza takeaway. There were various young people scantily clad given the cold weather and one in tears. One lad was identified as the aggressor and was crouched down in an alley feeling sorry for himself. One girl said she had been pushed and a lad said he had been punched although he had no injury. It seemed to have started from one lad being over attentive to one of the girls and then stumbling into her which others had misinterpreted. None of those involved wanted to make a complaint about the situation if that meant making a statement and going to court. All had been drinking and seemed to know one another. This sort of incident shows the day to day reality of policing. Is this a crime, is it anti-social behaviour or is it just one of those things which happens when people have been drinking too much and over react and misinterpret what they see? The matter should technically be recorded as an assault, paperwork filled in and then recorded as undetected as no one wanted to complain or you could just quieten things down, move people on and take the “aggressor” down the road so there was no danger of a recurrence. I think I know what the public think is the common sense thing to do. Some of it is about what we call the ‘attitude test’. If someone continues to be aggressive and fails to take this warning they will end up being arrested. Sadly, there are too many idiots who through drink don’t take the warning. At the end of the day officers do not like to see basically decent young lads getting a criminal record through the strength of emotion created by drinking and girls on New Year’s Eve.

Of course in an ideal world there should be a zero tolerance to any violence and to anyone behaving in a disorderly fashion. But the reason I go out on patrol on New Year’s Eve and on many other occasions during the year is to be reminded of the reality of the prevailing culture on the street and of what can be achieved by the thin blue line working with society as it is not how we would wish it to be. It is easy for some newspapers to print shocking photographs of late night scenes in town centres but the fact is lots of people do like going out drinking on nights like New Year’s Eve and the vast majority do so sensibly. Successive governments have found it impossible to control the drinking culture in this country or the willingness of the alcohol industry to sell alcohol which is relatively cheaper and stronger than it used to be. The best the police can hope to do is to keep a lid on it and make sure that those who go into town and centres to drink do so in a safe and mainly law abiding fashion. It is completely unrealistic to expect that the atmosphere and standards of behaviour in town centres will be the same at 3am as at 3 pm and indeed those that go there at those times don’t expect that. There has to be common sense and a certain degree of tolerance which is what good policing has always been about.

Happy New Year.

Sir Peter Fahy

My three-year vision of policing in Greater Manchester

This week the Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd held a scrutiny session to examine my plan for the next three years of GMP. I have been chief for five years now and I was recently given a three year extension to my contract. We are going through the most challenging time GMP has ever faced due to the economic situation and the cuts to our budget. We have already been through two years of budget reductions which has seen us lose 1800 staff posts. Based on  the projections made by the Chancellor we have a further four years at least of cuts and the total amount of savings by April 2017 will be £130m. Given that for the previous 30 years there has been an uplift in spending each year this is a huge change around.

About eighty five per cent of our budget is spent on staff costs so the total reduction in staff over this period will be about 2700. Back in 2010 we had a total of about 12,500 staff and we will go down to about 10,000. At the same time we are seeing new operational challenges with the changing nature of crime and increasing numbers of vulnerable people that we have a responsibility towards. One of our key responsibilities is managing the risk presented by crime and by dangerous people and the public appetite for risk is certainly not diminishing.

The huge budget reduction creates a need for constant change and reorganisation to cope with fewer staff and to introduce new ways of doing things. This in itself creates upheaval and uncertainty for staff. There is a reduction in opportunities for promotion and huge numbers of good people who want to join the force but with few places for police officers available.

How are we going to get through this ?

The foundation for effective policing is the relationship with the public and our understanding of what is going on locally. Over recent years we have put more staff into neighbourhood teams to build that knowledge of local people and particularly local criminals. We want to strengthen that approach and expand those teams to include colleagues from other agencies because we are all dealing with the same people and the same streets. Through this approach we can be more efficient in solving local problems and thereby reduce demand.

Our neighbourhood teams work hard to deal with the local problems of crime and anti-social behaviour but they need to be supported by specialist teams who can deal with more complex issues or particular peaks in demand. This may be the major investigation team, the traffic unit or the squads that deal with organised crime. We also have experts who deal with forensic examinations, digital evidence or financial investigations to take assets off criminals.

As we are going to have a smaller workforce we have to ensure that we get the best out of all the talent and dedication of our staff and remove the costs of unnecessary bureaucracy and checking and trust our staff to use their expertise and professionalism.  We will have to reduce further the number of managers and give more responsibility to front line staff. We will have to ensure that the maximum amount of our budget is spent on policing and so for instance reduce the amount we spend on buildings.

It will be crucial to encourage more involvement from the public. Policing is a team effort and works  when local people play an active part in helping solve local problems, looking out for one another, volunteering to help young people or the vulnerable and taking responsibility for their own conduct and looking after their property.

We will not get through this by doing  the things we have always done in the way we did it when there was a lot more money. There will be some difficult choices and some difficult conversations with the public and local businesses and we try to agree what we should concentrate on. Over the past week for instance we have highlighted the huge cost to policing of alcohol misuse and the pressures created by the extended licensing hours. There are many other issues we will place in focus over the coming months so there is more public awareness of what police officers spend their time doing. We will need to deal with more issues over the internet or on the phone. We will need to make sure that police officers spend their time on tasks and issues which need the particular expertise, skills and powers of a police officer and use other colleagues for other tasks. We will need to make best use of technology and information and that is why we will be investing in a major new computer system. We will need changes in legislation to help us deal with the more persistent and the more dangerous criminals and to help us keep up with the fact that more crime and planning for crime takes place on the internet.

Given that there will be less money spent on policing there has to be a change in the level of public expectation and acceptance that GMP needs to concentrate on the greatest threat, harm and risk to the community. We have to continue the move away from simplistic statistical targets and take a broader view of how to measure police effectiveness. When tragedies occur when things go “wrong” we need to react by learning lessons, not seeking scapegoats or just introducing more bureaucratic processes. We need to consult and involve the public but also very importantly consult and involve our own staff.

If we are not able to make the fundamental changes we need to make if we are not able to change the way we do things then we will revert to what used to be called “fire brigade policing ” just responding to emergency calls or investigating crime after it has happened. All the benefits we have gained from neighbourhood policing and more targeted and intelligence led approaches to dealing with crime and criminals. We will be there as the safety net to deal with crises caused by cuts in other agencies’ services.

Confidence in policing has been shaken recently by cases of police misconduct and incompetence sometimes from many years ago. Policing needs to be more transparent and accountable and resist short term pressures aiming for the highest ethical standards. We encourage staff to report instances of poor practise or misconduct by colleagues. We are there to safeguard basic human rights and protect the individual from those who want to exert their power through greed or extremes of violence. We must aim for the highest standards of professional conduct and the minimum use of force.

I am an optimist although the challenges created by austerity make for some bad days. There are four reasons to be cheerful.

  1. We have a great workforce committed to the protection of the public
  2. The public support us and believe in what we do
  3. Hard times force hard choices so difficult issues have to be confronted
  4. We are good at what we do.

Over the last ten years crime has halved in Greater Manchester and the city has lost its reputation for gun and gang violence. We have seen significant increases in public confidence in policing. We are not going to give this up easily.

Investigating crime

There has been a lot of press interest in the headline that GMP only investigates about 40 per cent of crime. As often the real story behind the headline is a lot more complex than that.

Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy

The comment was taken from a public scrutiny meeting on the issue of fraud. Part of the concern raised by victims was that not all allegations of fraud are taken forward into investigation. I put this into the context that we actively investigate about 40 per cent of crime overall and it was this line which then created the headline. By the way this is a shame as there were a lot of important issues surrounding fraud and crime on the internet discussed at this meeting which were not covered by the media.

Our strategy for tackling crime is based on three key elements:

1. Investigating crimes reported to us

All crime that is reported to GMP is carefully examined as to whether there are reasonable lines of enquiry. Of course in many cases we will have attended the scene of the crime and officers will have carried out an initial investigation. The crime goes to a crime desk which looks at whether these basic enquiries have been completed properly. If there are further tasks to be completed and there are further reasonable lines of enquiry then the crime will be allocated to an investigating officer. In making this decision we also look at how serious the crime is and the threat harm and risk to the general public.

Our expe

rience and professional knowledge tells us what activities and police tactics are likely to produce results and this is part of the decision making process. On average somewhere around 40 per cent of crime has a reasonable line of enquiry although we will always pursue the most serious offences to see if further work will turn up any further evidence.

We have to be realistic that in many crimes there are no witnesses, no forensic evidence and no CCTV evidence. Criminals try to commit crime without anyone seeing them or being able to recognise them. Thankfully many are stupid or careless. As police officers we have to work within the powers the law gives us and respect the rules and safeguards that are there when interviewing suspects. Any evidence we gather has to meet the criminal standard of beyond all reasonable doubt.

2. Targeting that group of persistent offenders who commit most crime

The vast majority of crime is committed by a relatively small group of persistent prolific offenders. So a key part of our efforts to reduce crime and protect the public is to target this group;  just as important as investigating burglary, is investigating burglars. This g


3. Patrolling those areas where we think crime is likely to occur
roup of offenders go in and out of the criminal justice system and some are back committing crime within hours of being released from prison. Every police station has its cohort of current target offenders that officers are expected to gather information and intelligence by regularly visiting them and stopping them when they see them out and about. We work with the Probation Service and with other agencies to try and divert these people and help them with their drug or drink problem or for instance accommodation but if they refuse that help and continue their offending or breach their licence conditions then our aim is to get them back into custody.

We do this by analysing patterns of crime and using computer analysis and our knowledge of offending behaviour to predict where crime will occur next. We task our officers to patrol those areas sometimes in uniform, sometimes in plain clothes. We use satellite tracking of where our officers are to ensure they follow those plans. This is called predictive mapping and is being used by a number of forces around the world.

In order to continue to reduce crime it is important that we balance these three activities of investigating crimes reported to us, targeting persistent offenders and patrolling those areas where we believe crime is most likely to occur next. If we just spent all our time investigating crime after it happened we would not have the officers to carry out the proactive work of targeting offenders and being out on patrol.

There have been some dramatic headlines about what I said despite the fact that this story has been covered many times before and in particular was publicised by GMP three years ago. The police have never investigated one hundred per cent of crime and in reality we can only do something where there is a line of enquiry to follow. I don’t think the public want us to waste time pursuing crimes where there is a low chance of success unless these are particularly serious offences. They would expect to be using police officer time where it is most likely to have success.

This does not mean we don’t care about crime or that we have given up on crime. It does not mean we don’t care about more minor offences. Our way of dealing with crime has led to crime being reduced by half over the past ten years. A key part of this is the way we have improved our intelligence gathering and analysis and this has led to our prisons being full and over crowded.

Behind my comments is a frustration shared by most police officers about our ability to control those dedicated to a life of crime who cause most harm and misery to victims. I am not one of those who believe in locking criminals up and throwing away the key, I believe everyone deserves a second chance and we have to be committed to diverting criminals away from offending and helping them to start anew. On the other hand there are too many offenders who refuse the chances offered to them and blatantly disregard bail conditions, court orders and licence provisions and these are allowed to commit too many offences and damage too many victims before they are properly controlled. It makes me really angry to see offenders going back to where they committed crime before and burgling in areas they targeted before. I think we need a wider range of sanctions and control measures which apply to offenders until they show a real commitment to change their ways. We have registered sex offenders who have long years of conditions on where they can live, we have sex offender orders to put conditions on where they can go for instance to keep them away from young children and perhaps we need a registered burglar scheme to keep them away from areas which they have exploited in then past and to ensure they keep away from activities preparatory to offending.

We have a very planned targeted approach. In the last few weeks alone we have had colleagues from Sweden, Chile and Australia visiting GMP to see our approach. We have learnt that you have to control the number of crimes that are under active investigation so that officers are not overwhelmed and can concentrate on where there are the best chances if success. We know we not only have to give a good service to victims but we have to reduce the chances of others being victims in the future.

One of the journalists who interviewed me suggested that I should not have publicised this figure as it damages public confidence and I should have kept it secret. I cannot accept this. It is important that we are open with the public and that they understand the reality of policing and the tactics, powers and processes we use to keep them safe. If certain journalists choose to sensationalise this and write dramatic headlines then that is a matter for them it will not stop me being open and honest with the people of Greater Manchester and involving them in every way I can in the fight against crime.