British policing has “lost its way” as members of the public fear officers are “more interested in being woke than solving crimes”, a report has said.
David Spencer, a former Metropolitan Police detective chief inspector, also said officers should avoid behaviours such as “taking the knee” which can “easily be interpreted by others as an expression of a partisan political view”.
Taking the knee, where protesters get down on one knee to show their opposition to racism, became a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement after George Floyd was murdered by a US police officer in 2020.
Met Police officers were seen taking the knee at a Black Lives Matter protest in London the same year.
Mr Spencer said officers should avoid such behaviour, as well as not wearing badges on their uniforms that link them with a certain cause, in order to “maintain the public’s confidence that police officers are acting with impartiality”.
In his report for the right-wing Policy Exchange think tank, the former detective claims recent polling shows the public were “almost twice as likely to agree than disagree” with the statement that “the police are more interested in being woke than solving crimes”.
The paper was published before Prime Minister Boris Johnson joined new police officers on the frontline on Wednesday morning.
Asked about the report he said: “I have just seen a bunch of police officers who woke quite a lot of drug dealers this morning, they woke them before they were expecting to have their breakfast and they woke them with warrants and they woke them with the news they were under arrest for causing misery in the communities of London.
“That’s what I want the police to do, that’s what (Home Secretary) Priti (Patel) wants them to do. I thank them for what they are doing. They do an absolutely fantastic job.”
Mr Spencer wrote that British policing has “lost its way” and the next prime minister must make a “series of significant interventions” as public confidence in forces falls.
He made 11 recommendations for the next government, including replacing the College of Policing and commissioning a review into initial police training.
Mr Spencer said the College of Policing, the professional body for policing in England and Wales, has become “synonymous to many within policing with a reduction in standards alongside a perceived lack of real-world relevance to the prevention of crime and disorder”.
He added: “Given its catastrophic reputation within policing, its failure over the last decade to deliver workforce reform that has been both substantive and effective, and the desire to simplify and make more efficient the setting and inspection of standards, the College of Policing should be replaced.”
Mr Spencer advised that the college’s role in setting standards should be transferred to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services and a national police leadership academy established “for the effective training and development of policing leaders across the country”.
Call for officers to have renewable licence fiercely rejected by Police Federation union
Police officers who damage public confidence to face tougher sanctions
Photos of murdered sisters’ bodies shared on WhatsApp
The former detective also recommended regulations be changed so police chiefs could be the ones to decide to dismiss officers found guilty of criminality or serious misconduct.
He also called for an end to so-called “closed shop” police promotions, adding that “all appointments to chief police officer, superintendent and inspector ranks should be open to external and re-joiner applicants”.
Mr Spencer also said the Home Office should create a new team of data scientists and hackers to tackle online crime.
The recommendations follow a proposal put forward earlier this year by the Police Foundation that would mean all officers would be subject to fitness and practise tests throughout their careers.
Prior to publishing that proposal, its author Sir Michael Barber admitted the loss of public confidence in policing is a “serious problem” prompted by a wave of recent scandals.
This includes the murder of Sarah Everard by serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens.