The boys in blue

April 4th, 2007

The latest Conservative Party proposals about policing have hit the news, they purport to be about decentralistaion and cutting bureaucracy (as you’d expect). Let’s rummage around.

Police authorities would be replaced by directly-elected commissioners who would take control of budgets, target setting and policing plans, leaving chief constables in “operational control” only of their force.

Failing police chiefs should be removed but replacement by election seems unwarrented, the role of the police is to uphold the law impartially (for better or worse, this is the case), therefore the efficacy of a police chief is primarily a matter of professional ability rather than policy (this being limited to how to prioritise resources) – it would seem that professional interview would be more effective than election. Additionally elections are unnecessarily costly with the need to fund the losing candidates, they also distract from the upholding of law and refocus upon populist agendas.

Under the Tory proposals, residents would get a “right to policing”, including cash to tackle local crime and safety issues by “hiring” a police officer or buying equipment.

A community has an absolute “right to policing”, in terms of ‘rights’ any group of people has the ‘right’ to employ anyone else to enforce any contract between themselves – including what they deem to be ‘the law’, as long as ‘the law’ is accepted by guests within the group or visitors upon its private properties (i.e. by the clear posting of bye-laws) then it can be further applied to these people too.
Back to the real situation, the impartiality of a police officer acting ‘for’ a certain community is compromised and may reduce the validity of their evidence in court.

And forces would also face tougher scrutiny from a new independent watchdog to look at value for money as well as standards.

Independent scrutiny is important but only worthwhile if it informs local decision making

It calls for more graduates to be recruited as well as professionals from outside the force, a new military-style senior staff college and a revamped promotion system.

Military-style in relation to the police seems un-British and makes me distinctly uneasy. In any case senior police officers need experience of day-to-day policing and combined with elections for commissioners you could be left with ‘career officers’ in charge of delivery with no real experience of community wishes (much like the UK Government)

More work should be handed over to civilian staff and private firms in a bid to allow officers more time on the beat, it says, to the point of paying commercial security firms to guard crime scenes, hunt down people who jump bail, monitor “at risk” prisoners and carry out security checks.

As I wrote, in theory there is no problem with private firms upholding private contracts, however these proposals will give private companies jurisdiction over third parties, i.e. ‘society’ as a whole which, in the UK, has not explicitly consented to anything.
Additionally in the light of NIR and the police DNA database these private companies will presumably have easy access to the personal details of many innocent persons.

Bits from the guardian

Instead of fiddling with the police service and presumably turning it into a political tinker toy as the NHS has become all political parties should be looking at removing unecessary laws and politically motivated knee-jerk regulations which the police are compelled to implement, they should be removing all apects of politicisation from the police so it reverts to being a simple public service.

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