Major reforms to policing proposed as report says performance “has not improved”

Greater local accountability and the creation of a National Policing Agency are among major reforms to the police service proposed by the Institute for Public Policy Research in a report out today.

The priority areas for reform, the ippr says, are the need to modernise and better equip the police workforce to deal with new challenges, the need for converged information systems throughout the service, the need to improve the quality of citizen-police relationships and the need to tackle an excessively bureaucratic and process-driven organisational culture.

One of the key the findings of the ippr’s report is that, for all the money the Government has spent on the police service – a 21 per cent real terms increase between 1997 and 2007 – police performance has not increased significantly, with the number of detections per warranted officer down recently from 10.8 in March 2006 to 9.4 this year – a possible effect of too much bureaucracy.

Another indicator of police performance, crime detection rates, have remained almost static in the ten years from 1998/9 (29 per cent) to 2008/9 (28 per cent). However, looked at in greater detail, the type of sanction handed out has varied in recent years, from 56 per cent of those sanctioned receiving a court summons in 2003, down to fewer than half (47 per cent) in 2006, with cautions rocketing from 16 per cent in 2003 to 24 per cent in 2006.

The way the service is governed also needs a radical overhaul, adds the report, pointing out the flaws in its current organisational structure:

• It inhibits the capacity of the police in particular to deal with serious and complex crimes that cut across force boundaries;

It does not deliver value for money, producing far too much overlap and duplication;

• It confuses lines of accountability, with a weak system of local accountability tempting the centre to micro-manage police forces in a way that reduces responsiveness;

• And it blocks change and reform by empowering internal stakeholders, who are able to rely on sufficient public sympathy to shield themselves from the pressure to change.

The report comes amidst growing uncertainty in police circles over the future of the service, with Sir Hugh Orde, the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, only last weekend threatening to resign over Conservative proposals for directly-elected commissioners, saying:

“I think I would be deeply uncomfortable. I would leave if the principles of British policing were compromised. Operation independence is absolutely critical.”

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