The shape of police forces to come


Summary

In the future, not that far away, any sense of professional identity in public service means looking beyond organisational boundaries. Not just in CDRPs and other ‘local’ facing areas of policing, but across the whole range of policing services.

Police forces need to be global and local. Small in some areas, and big in others, centralised where it matters and de-centralised where that is important. The one size fits all model of policing is now dead, but confusion still reigns as to what will replace it.

Community

The police need to cater for more niches and groups, and less to a single homogeneous community – whether that ever existed is perhaps doubtful, but in the age of the internet, global communities of like minded people who have never physically met, fragmentation at family, village, town levels, immigration, commuting huge distances for work, etc etc the community that we once thought we understood no longer exists.

Communication

Communication therefore needs to be re-thought – local newspapers are printing less news, becoming more regional and less local, and have less readership than ever before. People increasingly get their news online, or elsewhere – and these sources are less professional, less likely to check the truth of a story, and less accountable than local journalists. Some forces have started to take account of this.

Castles and Tower Blocks

More fundamentally though, organisations themselves are different – no longer is a police force able to act as a castle, a huge edifice providing shelter, sustenance, governance, and everything else it’s people need from under one roof. In the same way that gunpowder ended the military use of the castle, outsourcing and the ever-present search for efficiencies have made the ‘castle’ force old fashioned, expensive and anachronistic. We should be more like a block of flats – in each flat the colours, furniture, fittings etc suit each occupant, but the common areas in the building – lifts, stairs, windows, gardens – are managed by professionals on behalf of the occupants. Like blocks of flats, one force is not the sole occupant – many people share the space, each tailoring their own space to their own needs, but paying for the common areas for the common good.

To stretch the analogy even further, a successful block of flats requires a sense of community – a residents association if you will – to agree priorities for maintenance, colour schemes for common areas, capital replacement programmes and so on. Without this, you soon get the worst examples of sixties tower blocks – expensive, unsafe and soon to be pulled down.

A modern police force needs to move from it’s castle into a shared block of flats, build a common purpose, foster long term commitments, and engender trust with other organisations, and agree clear common purposes where professional support and advice can be bought in, or provided mutually, whilst still retaining the ability to decorate their flat in such a way as to meet the needs of their council tax payers.

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