With the appointment of Theresa May and Nick Herbert as Home Secretary and Policing Minister in the new Liberal Democrat and Conservative administration, there are likely to be changes in policing in the UK. Here are my personal thoughts on five possible areas the new administration will change.
Much of these ideas are taken from the document Nick Herbert authored – according to his website it is ‘the result of a year-long study by the MP’ whilst he was Shadow Minister for Police Reform. Published in 2007, some of the thinking outlined in it may have changed, but it does give some tantalizing insights into the way the new Policing Minister might take UK policing. The full document is available online at http://www.conservatives.com/pdf/policereform.pdf
Challenge the British Crime Survey
The BCS has been seen as the more representative of the two ways in which crime is counted in the country. Unlike internal police figures that can only count crimes reported to them, the BCS conducts detailed surveys with randomly selected members of the public over their experience of crime. Nick Herbert has stated however that the BCS ‘massively underestimates’ crime by ignoring the under 16s, commercial crime and drug dealing. Can we expect a different way of measuring crime now he has responsibility for this area?
The report talks about independent management of performance, and performance based on three factors – reduction in crime, how safe people feel and how satisfied victims and witnesses are with their treatment.
Increase the number of police officers on the street
Of course the financial position has changed since 2007, but the report argued for more police on the street, comparing the UK number of officers per 100,000 unfavourably with France and the US. The report also argued for better use of neighbourhood policing teams – which many will argue has now happened – and concludes that police visibility has a measurable impact on crime.
Change the structure of policing
The report makes it clear that the current model, a national service, and regional police forces are all not going to deliver against the challenges. Interestingly the option of smaller forces, more focused on areas with ‘a strong geographical and community identity, aligned with local government boundaries’.
The report promotes two other models – firstly ‘approximately’ 43 forces focusing on level 1, with a Serious Crime Force dealing with most of the protective services including serious and organized and major crime. The second model is also approximately 43 forces, but with increased accountability locally and effective leadership from the centre to drive collaboration. Which brings me on to…
The report criticises the Home Office for micromanagement, and states ‘Police chiefs should be given the freedom to manage their forces but be held accountable for their performance to the local community’ Communities should control local budgets, for example to hire police officers or PCSOs for their local area. The report is very clear on the current governance arrangements ‘directly elected police commissioners should replace police authorities’. Interestingly this includes the Metropolitan Police Authority in London, which would be abolished. Commissioners would appoint and dismiss Chief Constables.
When tied in with Theresa May’s comment as she took office that elected commissioners needed to be a high priority, there is a strong likelihood that this will be the first area that gets significant attention.
Mobile senior officers and police reservists.
The report talks about ‘A senior staff college similar to those in the Armed Forces should form a part of the career development structure and assess the capability of officers to match force and service needs.’ This could mean further development of the role of the National College of Police Leadership. The report goes on to state that ACPO level officers should ’join a national cadre of senior officers who can be deployed across forces and responsibilities’ The analogy is made with the military, where senior officers are deployed as needed. This would be a major change to current processes
With regards to rank structures, there are a number of suggestions – more graduates, a rank of ‘senior constable’ the end of the ‘old-fashioned model of the omni-competent officer’ , the creation of paid part time reservist police officers and greater steps to improve diversity.