PCC Responds to Liz Truss Comments on Police Targets

Liz Truss, one of the candidates seeking to be the leader of the Conservative Party and so the next Prime Minister, has said that she will set targets and introduce league tables for police forces if she becomes the Prime Minister.

Dr Alan Billings, the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire, says this is a mistake and will lead to perverse and unwanted consequences.

“Superficially we might wonder what is wrong with the idea of targets for policing.

“But we in South Yorkshire know very well what happens when police are given targets for particular offences – they switch resources, time and effort into those crime areas and start to neglect others.

“We had a culture of targets in the 1990s and early 2000s and this led police to concentrate on the target crimes and turn away from others, in particular child sexual abuse.

“For ten years between 2010 and 2020 the Conservatives cut funding to police forces and this meant that scarce resources were stretched thinly so that when targets were introduced the resources went to the targeted crimes and other areas received less attention.

“In South Yorkshire and other towns and cities the crimes that were neglected were child sexual exploitation.

“The scandals of Rotherham were in part due to the perverse culture of targets. We do not want to see a repetition of anything like that again. But resources are still stretched and we need the police to look around and not become totally focused on particular crimes otherwise emerging crimes will be missed.

“This is the lesson of Rotherham. I urge Liz Truss to think again and learn the lessons of the past before it is too late. In addition, if the minister wants to see more work by forces on particular crimes, that will require funding and this is not mentioned in her comments. She is willing the ends but not the means and that can only lead to further distortions in police budgets. But we are only just coming to terms with rampant inflation and the need to balance the books as a result.

“In any case, police and crime commissioners set local priorities, including measures to prevent crime in the first place, for their police forces and setting targets from the centre cuts across that. Liz Truss’s lists miss important emerging crimes such as cyber crime.

“We all want criminals put away but this is not the way to do it.”