After a decade of rapid spending increases under New Labour, this paper seeks to explain the pattern of growth in the range of strategic actions undertaken by police services during that period. Referring to a longitudinal analysis of documents, including annual reports, which related to strategic actions taken by one English police service (Blueshire), the common perception that ‘police mission’ has been subject to expansionary pressures is placed under scrutiny. An analysis is conducted which differentiates between new and cyclical policy issues and whether the strategic response is locally or centrally directed. Content analysis derived data has been supplemented with information secured during interviews with police leaders, to provide greater contextual depth. While it was observed that the capacity of police leaders to focus on core policing roles has, to some extent, been compromised, this cannot be explained purely in terms of central government pressure. The concept of path dependency is used to explain how this has occurred. A discussion is provided of the implications for the strategic direction of policing.