At first glance, it is difficult to understand why police performance is currently under such intense scrutiny and why a range of politicians, practitioners and commentators are calling for fundamental reform of the Police Service. Police recorded crime has fallen since 2007 and the criminal justice system brings more offenders to justice each year than ever before.
Challenges to today’s Police Service
The positives outlined above mask the emergence of genuine performance challenges in the Police Service. Decline in the number of crimes committed is marred by criticism that recorded crime is open to manipulation and distortion to produce politically favourable results. Gun crime and violent crimes are more common now than in the past. Offenders Brought to Justice (OBTJ) targets are increasingly being met through punishment of minor offences, for example with cautions for the possession of cannabis. Those from disadvantaged groups are disproportionately affected by crime – and this is the case now more than ever before.
While the police management have diverted their focus on reassuring the public, overall police productivity in terms of crime detection is flat: each warranted officer detected just 9 crimes per year in 2009, less than in 2001, and each current detection costs more in real terms than a detection in 2001. Such productivity issues may in part be due to low levels of morale within the Police Service, as evidence suggests that many frontline workers are struggling to cope with changes in their working environment imposed by Chief Officers and feel ill at ease with the target-based performance management framework. Another explanation lies in the fact that the crime landscape itself is changing with increasing rapidity: new criminal techniques and technologies combine with a fast changing distribution of crime types, and shifting public and political priorities requiring an ever more responsive police system.
The need for reform
The Government’s main response to these challenges has been to significantly increase spending on the police. Police resources have increased by over 25 per cent in real terms since 2001. However, such a response is no longer sustainable. The recent Home Office spending settlement dictates that police spending will have to remain at current levels at least until 2012. Simply pumping money into the policing system as it is currently configured appears to be producing limited and perhaps even decreasing returns. As a result, officials and commentators have started to look for other ways to improve performance and responsiveness.
One area that has been the focus of much public debate concerns the potential for a radical reconfiguration of police accountability and governance arrangements – with, for example, the Conservative Party proposing locally elected Police Chiefs as the primary change mechanism.
Labour’s approach to managing the police service over the last 10 years now needs to change dramatically if real reforms are to be seen. The Government’s policing strategy has been to spend more money on the police (increasing the number of police officers to record levels) and to drive up performance through the use of centrally imposed targets. This approach cannot continue. There is no more money to spend and the target regime reduced the ability of police forces to respond to changing local demands.
CHANGE STARTS AT THE TOP – WITH THE WAY FORCES ARE GOVERNED
None of these reforms can be progressed unless a wider set of problems are tackled that are caused by the way the police service is governed, organised and held to account. For true change to materialise at the front line, the primary focus must first be the reform of the current system of governance of the police service.
Unless the governance system itself is transformed, any substantive programme of reform will suffer the same fate as those that preceded it: opposition within different parts of the service followed by a government ‘U-turn’ for fear of a politically costly conflict with the police. The first reform priority therefore has to be to design a system of governance that is more coherent and less fragmented and that empowers local and national police leaders to deliver change in the public interest.
THE CURRENT SYSTEM OF GOVERNENCE IS FRAGMENTED
The structure of the police presents a block to necessary reform. The “tripartite model” – with power shared between the Home Secretary, Police Authorities and Chief Constables – means that Government does not have effective control over national policing priorities. The 43 forces are run as fiefdoms by their Chief Constables. To get things done, the Home Office resorts to bribing forces with sweeteners.
In perhaps the most critical report yet about the seats of power within the police service, we look in dept at the mechanics of ACPO [Association of Chief Police Officers], NPIA [National Police Improvement Agency] and APA [Association of Police Authorities].
This report pulls no punches. It takes a cold hard look at the three agencies, explores the contraversy that surrounds them and how their respective organisations have wasted and diverted tax payers money with profligate spending and misappropriate use of their powers.
Click here or any of the prior links to read or download the report.
For many senior police Chiefs, this will make uncomfortable reading. The time for passive acquiesence is passed. Reform is needed now and on the run up to the general election, with crime and policing in the public eye, there has never been a more appropriate time for this important subject to be placed under the spotlight. Change must start at the top. Improper practices must be rooted out from the top down if confidence is ultimately to be restored in this vital part of the criminal justice system.
In the report you will read how :-
- ACPO conducts itself as an oligarchy, the very opposite of democracy
- The Home Secretary strikes deals with ACPO to exert political influence
- Sir Hugh Orde is at odds with the Conservative viewpoint, saying police chiefs would resign rather than accept the Tory policy of elected police commissioners to hold forces to account.
- ACPO leaders give “political cover to the Labour Government repeatedly and consistently” ACPO officers engage in “gratuitous photocalls” with Gordon Brown and other ministers.
- ACPO receives £18 million a year from the Home Office, publicly and privately lobbies against a number of key Conservative issues, going far beyond its role.
- Despite claiming to be an independent body that acts in the public interest, analysis of its statements shows almost no criticism of the current Government.
- ACPO accrued operational policing roles in counter-terrorism, civil emergencies, intelligence gathering and ports policing.
- ACPO has created subsidiary companies providing criminal record checks, security advice and road safety training.
- ACPO stands accused of “bankrolling a ‘gravy train’ of ex-police officers who retire with a substantial police pension and then take up either consultancy work or full-time employment with ACPO
- Few understand that ACPO is a private company, funded by a Home Office grant and money from 44 police authorities.
- Despite its important role in drafting and implementing policies that affect the fundamental freedoms of this country, ACPO has until recent changes been protected from freedom of information requests and its proceedings remain largely hidden from public view.
- ACPO spent millions of pounds from the public purse meant for counter-terrorism work, on luxury London flats for senior officers.
- Sells information from the Police National Computer for up to £70 - even though it pays just 60p to access the details.
- ACPO pay & bonus scandal would overshadow the MP's expenses fiasco
- Sir Hugh Orde stated that voters can’t be trusted. In an unbelievably patronising
statement, he claimed that there are “no votes in protecting people from terrorism, from organised crime and from serial rapists that cross the country”.
- Sir Hugh complained that the police would become "politicised", yet the group over which he presides has spent years behaving in a quasi-political way, making statements intended to support this government policy or undermine that one.
- ACPO - rank officers can be found at Home Office press conferences and their
comments are often helpfully attached to government press releases. They are up to their necks in politics.
- Sir Hugh's intervention is itself overtly political. So it is a bit rich for him to complain about the politicisation of the police.
- THe NPIA Chief Executive Peter Neyroud is the £195,000 a year boss of the Agency.
- Mr Neyroud’s employment package includes a Westminster apartment — in a block that has a gym, pool, sauna and valet parking — within walking distance of the agency offices. It cost the taxpayer £23,200 in 2008-09.
- As a perk of the job, the flat has an income tax demand of approximately £9,000 a year, which the NPIA confirmed it has paid for a number of years.
- The NPIA is spends £19 million a year on consultants and recently employed an external contractor as its director of resources, paying him £296,000 — including accommodation costs — not a bad little number for seven months work.
- The Agency senior managers have faced criticism before. They shared £82,000 in bonuses in 2008-09 and Peter Holland, its chairman, claimed £46,000 expenses in two years — including £2,800 on meals at the RAC Club in Pall Mall.
- Mr Neyroud lives in Oxford, 45 miles from London. Oxford is within easy commuting distance.
- 2032 staff 1258 permanent, 64 Home Office staff, 266 seconded officers, 444 temp contractors with staff costs of £101,211,000 (£91million 07/08)
- They are owed £34,850,000 [most recent published accounts]
- They owe £71,729,000
- Cash in bank and at hand £5,245,000
- Cash in bank/at hand same time 2008 £42,254,000
- Fixed and current assets total £345million
- Deducting liabilities, the balance sheet is positive to the tune of £257million
- Total Costs £285,870,000
- Total Income £49,784,000
- Deficit -£236,086,000
- A few months after stories about his lavish perks, and perhaps a few months before a new government reviews the existence of his fiefdom, Peter Neyroud has announced his intention to step down as chief executive of the NPIA
- Within a day or so of Mr Neywoud announcing his departure, it can be no coincidence that he has chosen the same time to conduct a media interview in which he now urges the Government to agree to an independent examination of what it is the public requires of the police and the right structures to fulfill those requirements.
- It appears somewhat strange that this interview is timed on the approach to an election where the balance of power may shift and his Quango may well come under closer critical scrutiny.
- Within days of Peter Neyroud announcing his departure from the NPIA the Chairman, Peter Holland has now also announced that he will leave in September. All a bit convenient at best, suspiciously coincidental to say the least, to lose two key figures
from the top of an organisation in the immediate aftermath of a General Election. Or perhaps they've been reading the runes and reckon that the quango's future is less than secure?
- It seems that certain individuals within this gravy train culture are fearful that a Royal Commission or new Government might derail the train, reveal the secrets they would rather be kept from public view about waste and inappropriate spending and the disproportionate presence the bodies represent in the political system.
- Mr Neyroud has recently given public support to Sir Hugh Orde's comments about policing needing a review. Hardly surprising, as we have noted from the NPIA website that Sir Hugh Orde, as well as being President of ACPO is also an NPIA Board Member.
- Most police authorities are failing to set priorities for local forces and do not ensure value for money.
- A joint investigation of ten authorities in England and Wales by the Audit Commission and the Inspectorate of Constabulary found only mixed performance, with the majority of authorities performing only adequately overall.
- The ten authorities oversee £6bn of spending every year – or 44% – of the total annual policing budget, with one force, the Metropolitan Police Service, spending half of that sum.
- None of the nine received the top rating for value for money, with eight rated ‘adequate’. Two were rated ‘poor’ for their scrutiny of local policing.
- Authorities are not yet demonstrating that they can respond to the many multifarious demands that are placed on them. there is very little evidence even of police authorities performing well, let alone excellently.
The centralised model of police funding is a mess, eroding local accountability and inhibiting police forces from spending money where it would be most useful. It removes the incentive to spend effectively and efficiently, and denies local residents a say in how much they pay for their policing, and what its priorities should be.
Striking the correct balance between efficiency and accountability is central to public service reform. Unlike other services such as health and education, which are consumed by individual patients or pupils, policing is a public good and not subject to choice as a method of providing accountability. Consumer power can therefore only be exercised through a popular election.
Political debate about crime in England and Wales has been restricted to point-scoring and blame games. The lack of accountability, and the need for politicians to be seen to be “doing something about crime” has created a culture of short-termism and knee-jerk reaction.
It has resulted in the trading of meaningless statistics, accusations of interference and seemingly limitless centrally-directed initiatives.
The answer must involve getting the government out of the job of policing. The politicisation of the force must be tackled, with the removal of targets, not merely the promise of it as it presently stands.
A local tax to pay for the basic command unit and a commander who is selected by and answerable to taxpayers, whether through local government or even direct elections, would give the public that power. It would certainly put an end to the dangerous politicisation of our police force and the continuing alienation of the public.
The existing tripartite model of Home Office, Chief Constable & Police Authority needs a thorough overhaul. In place since 1964, its continuing value and fitness for purpose must be questioned if true reform is to be achieved.
A NEW SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE
Despite the difficulties and problems that exist within ACPO, the APA and NPIA, we would not dismiss the potential for providing real value to the tax payer. It seems that many of their responsibilities and purposes are blurred and overlap, are duplicated or contradict the ideal of a single focus.
To read the full report, see our conclusions and suggested recommendations click here