This week the Rt. Hon Teresa May, Home Secretary, revealed the Government plans for some “Radical Reform” of the Police Service… Plans for a massive shake-up in policing in England and Wales have been outlined by the home secretary. (BBC News)
LMAO – PMSL – OMG – WTF and other such urban shorthand from social networks and the blogosphere immediately sprang to mind. My first reaction and that of others (see below) was; “here we go with another ‘wasted opportunity’ to put things right”.
Inspector Gadget’s immediate observations on the ‘radical news’ was commented on in his post entitled ‘Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before’ (Police Inspector Blog).
An ex colleague who has worked in the police service for more than thirty years as both a police officer and a member of police staff said on his Facebook page…
Fantastic, when Police Forces are serving redundancy notices on staff, and others are actively looking at shedding staff (and officers), what do the government do? Introduce yet another tier of bureaucracy, who will no doubt hold yet more meetings, and claim yet more expenses, and come out with yet more oversight, interference and confusion. This is exactly what the country needs at the moment. (George A Mead)
Like many with firsthand knowledge and experience of working within the service, I came to the end of my thirty years service with a totally despondent feeling. In many ways I am left with the notion that perhaps I wasted those years. Our communities are simply not receiving the service they deserve and the taxpayer pays handsomely for…
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary‘s report ‘Valuing the Police’ (20-July-10), shows that only 11% of the police are visibly available to the public. The Inspectorate warns that with looming budget cuts, the availability of the police to the public will be even further reduced, unless there is a total redesign of the police. (HMIC)
Yes I am sad about how the service had changed; I am annoyed that for so many years it had been used as little more than a plaything by politicians and senior police officers. The service has suffered from years of half-baked ‘initiatives’ and countless flavour of the month special operations. Events designed solely to curry favour, gain media sound bites and PR popularity or, notch up an extra ‘skill’ for a personal CV.
We have more police officers now than there has ever been however, the public are still not convinced they are getting the service they require (see also, Thin blue line now just a dot).
The question the public ask HMIC most frequently is: where are the police? They want the police to be available (contactable by phone or in person on the street), and to turn up when they are wanted…it is clear the public are likely to be more reassured by contact with police rather than through statistics…The public associate the presence of policing with the absence of crime, which resonates with Peel’s first instruction to the police in 1829: The absence of crime will be considered the best proof of the complete efficiency of the police. (HMIC Report)
Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), said the police service was ready to make changes. “But reform must add real value to the critical service we deliver which keeps our communities safe,” he added.
Sounds good on the face of it? What ACPO considers as ‘reform’ under ‘tight budget constraints’ includes reducing police officer numbers. So make no bones about it, ACPO will make any reduction at the service delivery end of the operation, not the top!
When the Rt.Hon. David Cameron and his coalition came to power we were told; the future of our ‘Big Society’ is all about reform, change and local control and accountability, all be it amid a difficult financial climate. There will be some pain but it is necessary for us all to join together and work through it. We have to be bold, innovative and daring when we examine the ways we do things and search for best value delivery blah blah blah!
So here’s something radical that will help the police service to deliver front line service to our communities. It will assist with the reduction of expenditure under the current financial constraints of present budgets and, it will not detract from ’local accountability’. It’s not new; It has been discussed at length previously but more or less dismissed out of hand by senior police officers and Police Authorities (APA).
What is this innovative and radical idea and, why is it looked upon with such negativity? The subject is force amalgamation and/or regionalisation and it’s so obvious why it is frowned upon by ACPO and the APA… Their jobs, inflated egos (and not inconsiderable expenses claims) are the things that will suffer.
Over recent years we have all (but the public sector in particular) been told “we have to learn to do more with less”. The reality is that; front line operatives in all public services have been, it’s the middle to senior management that have not. In the majority of public services the management and ‘support structure’ outnumbers the delivery function at a frightening level.
Amalgamations and/or regionalisation of police forces and rationalisation of support functions like HR, Finance, Procurement and Estates etc will immediately provide the financial advantages presented by economies of scale. It will provide a reduction in the major public service expense which is people costs. It will not have an adverse affect upon local accountability as, the majority of operational and budgetary control has already been devolved to local Basic Command Units (BCUs).
Regionalisation of policing functions are already quietly taking place. This has been born out of a necessity to provide response resilience and the fact that, crime does not recognise local authority boundaries. The misconception that regionalisation/amalgamation is a ‘political hot potato’ that is unlikely to be supported by the public is a non starter. The public have in many ways been brainwashed by ACPO and the APA to believe it is not what they want as they will loose ‘local accountability’… Utter rubbish!
Whilst we’re at it… Remove the stupidity of the police officer split between Response Officers and Safer Neighbourhood Teams. A police officer is a police officer and, they should all be part of the community working for the community, as per Sir Robert Peel’s vision. This division of the police service has only served to create a feeling of ‘us and them’, both within the service but more importantly, between the public and the officers who serve them. Successive governments have succeeded in creating a situation of policing ‘by force’ as opposed to ‘by consent’, a factor totally opposed to the tried, tested and internationally respected principle of British policing.
The creation of the Police Community Support Officer was a reasonable concept however; it was one that has been flawed throughout the inception and development. If we are to continue down the road of the ‘extended police family’ let the Community Support Officers take a more active role in the areas of police work which don’t require warranted powers. Give the CSO a job description with a set of powers (as required) that is a national standard. A standard that everyone can easily understand and, is the same nationally. Not one decided upon by the whim of a local member of ACPO.
There is no need to create a ‘police reserve’ we already have the Special Constabulary. This is an excellent service to the community and one that could do so much more. The Special Constabulary already have the warranted powers of a full time officer, they often receive better and more comprehensive training than CSOs but they are looked upon (wrongly) by many as ‘hobby bobby’ volunteers.
If the function and worth of the Special Constabulary had been fully understood and, operated in a similar way to the RUC/PSNI reserve and/or the Territorial Army, perhaps there could have been better development of their function to benefit our society. By this I do not mean any paramilitary type function, I refer to the administrative and organisational makeup with a similar financial remuneration system.
I have never understood the thinking behind the creation of CSOs with limited training, limited differing powers and pay scales often in excess of newly appointed fully warranted police officers? Especially when there was already a (somewhat decreased) pool of expertise available. A resource that could have been developed and nurtured back to erstwhile levels.
The Special Constabulary could provide all the operational delivery and response support required by the full time police and the CSOs could have provided the ‘voluntary’ street warden type function that is so widely enthused about. Another missed opportunity by governments.
My message to the government is this:
- The Police Federation which represents the ‘service delivery’ part of the service has always embraced change, is ready for change and always has been.
- The police officers on the ground are crying out for change to prevent them from being run ragged.
- ACPO have said (unwillingly) they will accept change.
Don’t reinvent the wheel; don’t make change just for change sake, stop talking about it and bloody well get on with it. Are we actually going to get the change we need? I’ll believe it when I see it 🙂
Update 28-Jul-10: The Thin Blue Line Blog asks – What are the 5 biggest challenges facing policing today?
Update 30-Jul-10: It appears that our local media are understanding the need for change too…
THE prospect of police force mergers should not fill either police officers, or the communities they serve, with dread.
Amalgamations are being actively discussed and, although decisions have yet to be made, there is a clear realisation at the highest levels that the savings some local authorities are seeking to make by sharing certain functions can be repeated within the police service.
This is just one of the initiatives being looked at as the new Government endeavours to push through its draconian cuts while not cutting substantial numbers of the police officers on the beat. It is clear that something has to give, and that is management and attendant bureaucracy.
What has to be maintained is the neighbourhood policing that has been extended to cover every community in recent years. It may not be perfect, but most places now know who their local sergeant and inspector is. Crime is lower now than it has been and neighbourhood policing must take some of the credit for that.
Locally accountable and accessible police officers are what people want. What emblem they wear on their helmets is neither here nor there.