Trusted, professional and effective: British policing at its best – Tom Brake MP on the Lib Dems’ new policing paper

Today we have launched the new Liberal Democrats policing paper: Trusted, professional and effective: British policing at its best.

It is my pleasure to be launching this paper, based upon which a conference motion will be debated by Liberal Democrat Conference in Spring 2012. Along side my Co-Chair Baroness Hamwee and the rest of the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Justice and Equalities Committee we are constantly working to define Liberal Democrat Policy outside the Coalition.

Public confidence in the police has been shaken in recent times: by the riots, by phone hacking, and by the increasing state intrusion into our lives that the police are responsible for enforcing.

It is my own belief that we have fantastic police officers who are dedicated, able and trying to do their best by the community they serve. Yet as an organisation, the police are suffering from a lack of public confidence and trust, especially in more marginalised communities.

It is essential that we restore public confidence and address the sense that the public feels both over-policed and under-protected. It is no surprise that many of the criticisms of the police relate to a perceived lack of fairness in the way people have been treated. Labour’s legislative assault on civil liberties has been disastrous for the reputation of the police who had to enforce it.

Through the Protection of Freedoms Bill, the Coalition Government has begun to roll this back and Liberal Democrats are pressing for additional measures that go even further in protecting people’s individual freedoms and civil liberties, including more protection for the right to protest and the right to free speech.

Policing by consent is at the heart of our approach to policing and that essential principle rests on the pillars of fairness, legitimacy and trust. As the saying goes, trust is easy to lose but hard to regain. That is why I have used this paper to set out the action needed to address public concerns and to build on the best of British policing to ensure we have a police service that is more trusted, more professional and more effective.

This paper makes three key proposals that will change the culture of the police for the better:

  1. More trusted: listening to local people and making policing much more responsive to communities’ priorities.
  2. More professional: setting up a new police professional body with a key responsibility to recommend detailed national minimum recruitment standards for the police.
  3. More effective: making evidence-based policing the defining feature of 21st century policing by establishing the world’s first Institute for Policing Excellence.

It is my hope that this paper and the policies contained within it will build on the good work being done by Liberal Democrat Ministers within the coalition and craft a uniquely liberal, pragmatic and democratic approach to policing in the future.

You can read the policing paper here.

* Tom Brake is Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington, and the Lib Dem Lib Dem Spokesman for Exiting the European Union and International Trade

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10 Comments

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 28th Feb '12 - 6:44pm

    This is a very good paper and will be helpful to any police commissioner candidates.

  • Stuart Mitchell 28th Feb '12 - 7:01pm

    “1.More trusted: listening to local people and making policing much more responsive to communities’ priorities.”

    I don’t know what other forces are like, but my local police force has actively consulted with the community for many years, for example asking local people to take part in surveys on what they think the main priorities should be for the police in their area. The local police authority is made up of elected representatives from across the ten boroughs covered by the force.

    Sadly from November all this will come to an end when we have an elected dictator appointed (almost certainly on a tiny tirnout) to tell the force what its priorities should be. In my view this will make the police a good deal less responsive to local communities, rather than the other way round.

    In communities where there are ethnic or other tensions, the potential for disaster as a result of dictatorial police commissioners is obvious.

  • Tony Dawson 28th Feb '12 - 8:27pm

    The paper appears to omit any reference to £126 million wasted upon pointless Police Kommissar elections which might otherwise go on police frontline personnel. Q’elle surprise? 🙁

  • @Tom Brake
    I’m in the middle of reading this and I’m just wondering if something has gone screwy with my browser or in the loaded document? Page 25 seems to be a partial duplication of the text on page 24 (except 25 has a picture, hence only partial text ). The result seems to be that half of the section on “Evidence Based Policing” is missing, is this an issue with the doc?

  • @Tony Dawson
    I’m not certain why you would expect an LD MP to put in “we wanted a separation election which would cost more” into an LD policy document about improving things in the Police Service?

  • Richard Dean 28th Feb '12 - 10:45pm

    Chris_sh. I get the same problem.
    Also there seems to be a problem on pages 28 and 29 (as numbered at t op right on the page) – Information Technology

  • @Richard Dean
    Thanks Richard, I can stop my missing marble hunt now. I think there is also an issue on page 33, rec number 7.

    It was an interesting read, but as is often the case when I read these sort of documents I end up wondering why it takes a financial crises to do some of the things recommended.

    @Stuart Mitchell
    “I don’t know what other forces are like, but my local police force has actively consulted with the community for many years….”
    I think you may be lucky, I usually get a glossy brochure every March telling me why the Police want yet more of my money.

  • Richard Dean 29th Feb '12 - 12:09am

    A nice document, though I would like to have seen the idea that the police “serve” their local communities, not just listen to what they say. They serve by protecting the people in communities, enforcing the national law in ways that are consistent with local cultures and aspirations. The PCC’s should be a helpful element; I certainly don’t envisage their proper role as one of conflict with local police.

    The PCC system will certainly have its dangers though. Democracy costs money and sometimes seems less effective and more fragile than other systems. But it is also a system by which populations learn, and are eventually stronger. I expect there will be some major upsets as different populations learn how to engage. Some PCC’s may be Komissars but there may also be opportunities for them to lobby central government more effectively than police chiefs – and pressure from their electorates to do so.

    I cannot remember any local consultation from any police force in my entire 60 years!

  • @Richard Dean
    “I expect there will be some major upsets as different populations learn how to engage. Some PCC’s may be Komissars but there may also be opportunities for them to lobby central government more effectively than police chiefs – and pressure from their electorates to do so.”

    Not just central government, I would guess that if there is something that a PCC can’t do much about because of local issues, he may well ensure that the public are aware that it is really a council issue rather than a policing issue, this may push many local councils to sort out potential problems before they become policing problems.

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