New look required…
The BBC news report today that; Current police numbers are not “sustainable” in the face of budget cuts… So says the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Sir Hugh Orde. He also comments that it is “misleading in the extreme” to claim otherwise and urges ministers to make structural reforms, rather than “salami slicing” the police to save money.
After devoting thirty years of my life to being a police officer, I know a thing or two about how the service works. I fully understand what politics and personal aspirations are involved in the management of it and, how consistent government interference in the concept of British policing has lead us to where we are today.
Total numbers may not ‘be sustainable’ however; these comments are based wholly upon financial viability and not operational considerations. It is interesting to see how ACPO (and to a certain extent the Superintendents Association) will be the ones wielding the budget knives. Make no bones about it; they only ever slice downwards!
In 1829 Sir Robert Peel said that; the primary aim of an efficient police was the prevention of crime, the detection of crime and the apprehension of offenders. Well over 100 years later that hasn’t changed, neither have the priorities! What has changed is the political and financial interpretation of that efficiency. The measurements of detection, and to a lesser degree convictions, have been the benchmarks for police ‘efficiency’, a factor that has turned the concept of policing on its head.
Through all my service there were regular organisational announcements such as… “The Home Office has authorised an increase in establishment for three Superintendents (to head bean counting departments), this will be offset by the reduction in two constables respectively”. Irrespective of statistical manipulation by senior officers, I have witnessed somewhere in the region of a 50% decrease in actual officers ‘on the beat’ than was the case 30 years ago… Despite the ‘record’ police numbers, how can this be the best use of limited public finances?
I agree that the time has come for a radical change in the format and make up of the police service we know in the UK. The one thing that must not change is the original Robert Peel principles of ‘efficient policing’.
Commentators have said… Compelling constabularies to reduce costs through merger is politically undeliverable… I don’t agree and, I also don’t necessarily agree that each county needs its own police force. The voluntary collaboration between several forces has already begun. Yes this may be taking place on the QT to a certain extent (for political and personal reasons) however, in these days of criminal mobility etc. it makes both operational and financial sense. The more successful it becomes the less there is to actually support the current number of Chief Constables and force management teams… Big time cash saving!
Ministers are correct when they insist “savings can be found from national procurement of equipment, kit and vehicles, by reducing bureaucracy through fewer targets and simpler processes”. This methodology has been discussed for several years now but the stumbling blocks have always been local politicians, police authority members and senior officer staff associations like ACPO and the Superintendents. Obviously their individual self-importance and career prospects are more important than service to our Country.
The time has come to stop bloody talking, shed some top-heavy management (along with its associated bureaucracy) and finally get on with helping police officers to deliver the service our nation needs and deserves.
You need to restore the balance and cut some off the top before we trim the ends!