Police warned public trust in forces ‘hanging by a thread’ as it falls to lowest level ever

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The policing watchdog has warned that public trust in the police has fallen to the lowest level ever.

His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke has urged chief constables to concentrate on crimes that matter most to people as public trust falls to its lowest level ever. He said that police should be forced by law to get the basics right in investigations and restore the abandoned policy of neighbourhood policing.

Cooke has also demanded new legal powers make chiefs follow his rules, and has also said he wants a role in their appointment. Mr Cooke said: "There are clear and systemic failings throughout the police service in England and Wales and, thanks to a series of dreadful scandals, public trust in the police is hanging by a thread. We have a small window of opportunity to repair it."

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Cooke said that calls for change over the years have mostly been ignored and or implemented too slowly by forces. He added: "A perfect example of this is that since 2016 we made a considerable number of recommendations to address police officers abusing their position with victims for sexual purpose. Not enough forces took meaningful action and that’s why we are where we are.

“This lack of action meant it had become too easy for the wrong people to join the police and the wrong people to stay in the police. Now, there’s only so many times we can say the same thing in different words. The time for talking has passed and it’s now time for action."

Mr Cooke insisted that major reform is needed, and that the same applies to other organisations. Cooke did acknowledge that most officers were dedicated, brave and committed.

He addressed the strain of underfunded mental health services which meant that police officers were often having to deal with patients, saying that in 2022 police attended 600,000 mental health incidents. Cooke said: "I wouldn’t expect a mental health professional to investigate crime. The role of the police needs to be more tightly defined.”

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Public trust in the police is “hanging by a thread, the policing watchdog has warned (Photo: Getty Images)Public trust in the police is “hanging by a thread, the policing watchdog has warned (Photo: Getty Images)
Public trust in the police is “hanging by a thread, the policing watchdog has warned (Photo: Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

He added: "Having too many demands makes it difficult for them to prioritise. Often and rightly, a significant amount of time and effort is spent trying to protect the most vulnerable. The police exist to serve all citizens equally. Victims who aren’t vulnerable should still receive a good level of service from the police when they need it, it is not an either or."

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