Liberal Democrats Police Policy Review – have your say

What is the role of the police in society? Does it go beyond simply cutting crime and acting as law-keepers to include working with local communities in ways that are sometimes characterised as acting more as “social workers” or “youth workers”?

How should forces work together following the introduction of the new Police and Crime Commissioners? How do we break down barriers between forces to encourage the sharing of best practice and increased cooperation? What needs to happen to ensure that the new Police and Crime Panels (PCPs) act as a check on the power of the Commissioner and are effective at guarding against politicisation and operational interference?

Do current arrangements for entry into the police service meet both the needs of the police and current employment patterns and expectations of potential recruits?

These are just some of the questions being asked as part of Liberal Democrats’ review of party policing policy.

The next few years will be challenging ones for the police. They will have to manage major organisational changes and respond to significant financial pressures. With the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act receiving Royal Assent recently, we are aiming to produce an up-to-date policy position that is fair, local and liberal for debate at Spring Conference 2012. This timescale does not give the opportunity of a formal consultative session with members so we are keen to get as many views as possible.

The floor is yours and all responses welcome!

Leave your comments below or email [email protected]

James Kempton is Policy Consultant to the Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities Parliamentary Party Committee.

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2 Comments

  • Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera 5th Dec '11 - 12:11pm

    Policing it has been said, is too important an issue to be left to the police alone. A sentiment that as a former officer and still academically involved in policing matters, I would tend to agree with. Sadly though, I have to assume from the absence of comments to this thread, that James has thankfully commenced, perhaps the majority of the people in society, and the party do not share this thought, which to me is very concerning.

    I will admit from the outset that the views expressed below do contain a personal bias, but this has been done to stimulate debate.

    Police Recruitment:  

    Should not new police officers who happen to be paid more than new nurses and teachers, be expected to enter the service in a similar manner, by having to undertake a pre-join academic/practitioner programme at their own expense?  

    For those concerned that the diversity of the service will decrease if recruits are expected to be graduates first, then fear not for evidence from overseas tends to indicate that minority ethnic communities specifically and women see the service as a genuine career choice if such a move is made.  Interestingly the National Black Police Association (UK) is totally committed to graduate entry only.

    Should recruitment into the service only be at Constable level?  

    Currently if a recruit has specialist knowledge that it is required, it takes at least two years for them to pass through the probationer programme, then they have to undertake and pass promotion exams and interview boards (which in some places are about whether ones ‘face fits’ rather than based on measurable criteria) before they can be promoted.  Direct entry has been proposed so that people with specific skills can be brought directly into a role that fits their expertise.

    The National Black Police Association (UK) is proposing as part of a positive action programme that direct entry is one way in order to redress the ethnic imbalance that exists in the service in specialists departments, and at the higher levels of the service.  

    NB:  Home Office research shows that visible minority ethnic recruits disproportionately have higher education qualifications than their less diverse peers, but their career paths are significantly slower, and many specialist departments and the highest levels in the service are disproportionately under-represented by such staff.

    Police Structure:

    Are there too many little forces?  There are currently 43 forces in England and Wales, which means that there will 41 separate Police & Crime Commissioners (The City of London, and the Metropolitan Police have a separate system, The London Corporation runs the City as its own thiefdom, and the Mayor of London is the PCC, although Boris has nominated one of his subordinates to fill the role).  

    NB: There are currently proposed plans afoot to amalgamate the eight police forces in Scotland into one. If it is seen as appropriate to amalgamate the Scottish police service, in order to make it more effective, efficient and economic, why are the services in England and Wales not being brought together as well?

    Obviously the introduction of elected PCC’s, replacing the current Police Authority system is a change to the current structure.  The solitary elected PCC will replace the current Police Authority (made up of local councillors and independent members).  The Home Secretary saw the current system as too bureaucratic, and liable to be too influenced and controlled of the Chief Constable.  

    The PCC’s are expected to be more independent, and will be scrutinized by Police and Crime Panel’s that will be made up of local councillors and independent members (no change there then, a Police Authority by another name?)  PCC’s are meant to be the link between the public and the service, and will guide policy making, but not get involved directly in operational deployment issues. Recently one Tory PCC candidate in Kent expressed his belief that as a PCC, he would be far more in control stating that he saw police officers as “rat catchers and not social workers”. I fear that this draconian opinion will represent the majority of ‘Blue Rinse’ PCC’s.

    NB:  PCC’s will be elected next November, and there is a fear that specifically visible minority ethnic candidates will not only be under represented as candidates, but will not be elected where they do stand due to the ‘conservative’ nature of people opinions abut policing.

    Are there too many ranks? – there are currently three ‘doing’ ranks, these being: 

    NB: When perusing the salaries, remember that currently the only national qualifications for joining the service are that one can pass a basic literacy test, and that if one has a tattoo, that it is not offensive.

    Constable (Starting salary: £23,259, but rises to around £36,519 plus allowances)
    Sergeant (Salary: £33,810-£41,040 plus allowances)
    Inspector (Salary: £46,788-£52,818 plus allowances),

    and the following are primarily administrative, or retrospective supervisory: 

    Chief Inspector (Salary: £51,789-£56,853 plus allowances)
    Superintendent (Salary: £62,298-£72,585 plus allowances)
    Chief Superintendent (Salary: £74,394-£75,909 plus allowances)
    Assistant Chief Constable (Commander in the Met and City) (Salary: £88,470-£103,218 plus allowances)
    Deputy Chief Constable (Deputy Assistant Commissioner  in the Met and the City) (Dependent on Chief Constables salary)
    Chief Constable (Assistant Commissioner in the Met and Commissioner in the City) (Salary: £142,194-£188,736 – variable due to size of force, plus allowances and bonuses)
    Deputy Commissioner (Met) (Salary: £209,382 plus allowances and bonuses)
    Commissioner (Met) (Salary: (Salary: £253,620 plus allowances and bonuses)

    NB: These salaries are based on 2009 figures, so they will have increased.

    Role of Policing:  

    The service has not been fully reviewed since 1960, which resulted in the Police Act, 1964.  This was the first full review since 1829 when the service was established.  The demands on the service, and changes in society have arguably changed almost as much since 1964, as it did between that date and the inception of the service.  Is it time that the service was reviewed again to see whether the current structure and its functions are ‘fit for purpose’?

    NB: The police service costs the tax payers around £17 billion a year.

  • Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera 6th Dec '11 - 10:10am

    With Lord Stevens announcing today that he is to lead on an ‘Independent’ Review into policing on behalf of the Labour Party , it is even more important that the Liberal Democrat Party has its own perspective on such issues.

    We can either sit back and not engage, and thereby we will be responsible for the destruction of British Policing, or we can get involved now, it is still not too late.

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