Nick Herbert MP, Shadow Minister for Police Reform, has – this morning – launched a mid-term policy review paper on his brief. In The Telegraph he writes this:
"The lessons of New York are important ones. Better police performance was achieved by a combination of factors: a significant increase in police numbers on the streets, robust community policing and powerful reforms to enhance the accountability of managers. The changes were driven by an elected mayor who answered to the people, and an inspirational police chief who innovated and led his force… The founder of modern policing, Sir Robert Peel, famously said: "The police are the public and the public are the police." Police forces grew out of the localities. Restoring the accountability of the police to local communities will be an important counterbalance to the areas where more effective national co-ordination of policing will be required, such as in the fight against serious crime."
The key themes that are being put out to consultation are summarised below:
- Britain gets poor value for money in the war on crime.
Every household in England and Wales spends £550 a year on law and
order – two-thirds of which goes to the police. Britain is at the top
of the OECD spending league when it comes to the proportion of national
income spent on tackling crime but, amongst developed nations, only
Australians are more likely to be victims of crime. The report: "Less
than a quarter of crimes are detected and receive a sanction…
Increasing levels of funding have not led to corresponding increases in
arrests and detections… On any available measure, police productivity
has fallen, meaning that taxpayers have not received value for money."
- Inadequate police visibility.
Although’s Britain’s police officer numbers at 140,000 are at a record
high that is still a low number by international standards. In England
and Wales there are 264 officers per 100,000 members of the population
compared to 387 in France and 457 in New York.
- Local accountability must replace central control.
Only 14% of officers’ time is spent on patrol. 19.3% of time is
consumed by paperwork. The report: "The police’s hands must be untied
to give them the discretion they need. Forms and process which do not
help the police to deliver a better service to the public should be
eliminated. Central direction and targets should be replaced by
locally accountable leadership and priority setting."
- Police structure must change. The
paper rejects the status quo and the Government’s failed attempts at
regionalisation. It proposes two alternatives. One option would keep
the 43 forces and their current range of responsibilities but would add
two ingredients: local accountability to ensure the development of
community policing and effective leadership from the centre to drive
cross-force collaboration against serious crime. The second option
would see the 43 forces lose responsbilities to a Serious Crime Force,
answerable to the Home Secretary.
- Greater professionalisation. The
paper proposes a Sandhurst-style staff college to assess and support
the development of a national cadre of senior officers who could be
deployed across forces and responsibilities. It also recommends that a
more flexible police service might emerge if overtime costs are reduced
and police officers receive a higher basic salary instead. The paper
also rejects positive discrimination and affirmative action as
"counter-productive" routes to the creation of a more representative
- Local and democratic accountability.
In the most significant recommendation of the report there is the
suggestion that directly elected police commissioners should replace
police authorities. Chief constables would retain operational
responsibility for day-to-day policing but commissioners could appoint
and dismiss them. The paper also proposes a "right to policing."
Local communities would gain a right to regular beat meetings –
involving councillors – and access to detailed, transparent information
on crime levels in their localities.