Daily Mail: Only 38 percent have any faith in our police

Friday, 6 March, 2009


LESS than half of the public have confidence in the police to deal with crime and loutish behaviour, a Government survey revealed yesterday.

In some force areas, the approval rating is an alarmingly low 38 per cent, while nationwide it is only 46 per cent, the Home Office said.

Now Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is demanding that all forces achieve a confidence rating of 60 per cent by 2012 - even though this will still leave four out of ten people without faith in the police.

Miss Smith said that, with immediate effect, she was scrapping all the targets currently imposed on police forces by her department, such as asset recovery, monitoring prolific young offenders and race equality employment.

In their place will come the single new measure of confidence. To hit a confidence rating of 60 per cent, some forces will have to make dramatic improvements.

Critics said the Government was responsible for the public having so little trust in the police to protect them.

They said officers were so bound up in red tape they were unable to do the jobs the public demanded - such as patrolling the streets.

Conservative policing spokesman David Ruffley said: 'This underlines the real urgency of getting more police back on the beat to deter anti- social behaviour and make arrests where necessary.

'That is what the public want to see in their neighbourhoods. Twelve years of Labour red tape and bureaucracy have wasted police time, keeping them away from front line crime-fighting.'

Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, said: ' This reflects not so much the public's attitude to the police, but to the criminal justice system in general.

'The view is that the whole system is failing and because the police are in the front line we take the brunt of it. How can any society be expected to cope with 70 per cent re-offending rates?'

The findings, based on the British Crime Survey of 30,000 homes, are the first directly to address the question: 'Do you have confidence in police and local councils in dealing with anti-social behaviour and crime?'

Lincolnshire scored only 38 per cent while South Wales managed 38.7 per cent, Humberside 39.2 per cent and Gwent 39.3 per cent.

Miss Smith said: 'I have a singleminded focus on building public confidence in policing and that means the police should be answering to the public, not the Government. That is why I have scrapped all but one central target for the police - to raise public confidence.

'I have always been clear that this target needs to be challenging if we are to see real change in public confidence in the police. By 2012, I want to see at least 60 per cent of people confident that the police are addressing what matters locally.'

However, police insiders questioned the significance of the Home Office scrapping the existing targets. Forces will still be answerable to other Whitehall departments, such as the Audit Commission, and will also remain free to set their own local targets.

Meanwhile, complaints against police officers in England and Wales have risen to record levels.

According to the Independent Police Complaints Commission there were 48,280 complaints in the year to March, up 5 per cent on the previous year and the highest total since independent investigations began more than 20 years ago.

Most of the complaints concerned alleged failures to investigate or record crimes properly.