House of Commons Library

Policing in the UK

Published Monday, December 23, 2019

This briefing discusses the key legislation for the governance of police services, how police forces work, including when they work together, how they organise their staff and how they are overseen.

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This Library Briefing is part of a series on policing. Together with Introduction to police powers it is designed to provide a 'beginners 'guide' to policing policy in the UK. 

Other Library Briefings about policing include:

The police service in the UK is divided into 47 separate police forces: 43 territorial police forces in England and Wales, a national police force in both Scotland and Northern Ireland and 2 specialist police forces: the British Transport Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.

Policing policy is devolved, and the UK's constituent countries have taken divergent approaches to the organisation of policing services. Major reforms to policing have recently taken place in both England and Wales and Scotland. In England and Wales power for making policy decisions for local policing have been largely transferred to Police and Crime Commissions and local Mayors. The Home Office has therefore switched its focus to combating serious and organised crime nationally. In Scotland, the former regional police forces have been merged to create one national police force: Police Scotland.

Police services across the UK are having to contend with multiple challenges. Many forces have been under financial pressure following austerity measures implemented since 2010. They are also responding to evolving crime threats including digital crime and serious violence.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has reported that the police have responded well to these challenges. However, they have raised concerns about the resourcing of police forces and called for fundamental reform which facilitates better collaboration between forces at a regional and national level.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8582

Author: Jennifer Brown

Topic: Police

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