Police: understanding public liability exposures

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In October 2010, the government announced that central funding to police services in England and Wales would be reduced by 20 per cent in real terms between March 2011 and March 2015.

Over that time, the affected police forces have managed to balance their books, finding almost £2.53 billion in savings, while protecting frontline crime-fighting capabilities. In fact, statistics from HMIC show a general downward trend in reported crimes during that period.

Where possible, police forces have sought to protect frontline staff from the funding cuts by prioritising savings in goods and services, and other areas. However, despite their best efforts, the general police workforce did reduce by more than 34,000 people in the relevant period.

Continued pressure to cut costs

With continuing pressure to find cost savings, there is real concern that police services will find it challenging to cut further costs while protecting crime-fighting capabilities.

Indeed, funding reductions may already be adversely affecting crime-fighting capabilities. Despite the general downward trend over the past few years, the HMIC statistics showed the first increase in reported crime for several years in 2014. IPCC statistics also showed that complaints against the police in England and Wales reached record levels in 2014.

Insurers are also concerned that the continuing funding cuts will adversely affect police forces’ claims experiences. It is not uncommon for operational policing claims to account for up to 90 per cent of all claims submitted against a police force.

If cost-saving initiatives start to negatively impact operational policing, this may lead to even more claims – which would result in a phenomenon of cost shifting, rather than cost saving, because insurance costs would rise.

Understanding your public liability exposures

Against this backdrop, RMP has developed a police health check (PHC) process, which helps us to understand our police clients more fully and design and produce support services that are tailored to their specific needs.

The health check is focused on public liability exposures in the context of operational policing in the UK. We developed it in accordance with best practice guidelines from PACE, ACPO (NPCC), HMIC, IPCC and the College of Policing.

The health check seeks to establish current policing standards across the following areas:

  • Risk assessment
  • Initial contact and arrest (including control and restraint, and transportation)
  • Detainee care (including death in custody and young persons in custody)
  • Buildings and facilities (specifically focusing upon custody suits)
  • Use of Tasers

Benefits of the health check

By taking part in the PHC process, an individual police force will be able to get to the heart of some of their most challenging risks, consider improvements to current procedures and ultimately drive down their total cost of risk.

In addition, the police force will also be working towards helping the overall book of police risks across the insurance industry. There are relatively few police forces in the UK, and even fewer insurers who have an appetite for such risks. It does not take many £1 million-plus claims to make insuring this type of business even less attractive – and it is not uncommon for police forces to have claims on that scale.

Of course, the civil aspect of the claim is the least important. When measured against the injuries and the reputational damage that such events can cause, the aim of all interested parties must be to try to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of such an event happening in the first place.

How can we help you?

For more advice on how we can help lower the cost of your risk, please email contact@rmpartners.co.uk


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