Confronting Political Control of the Police

I have just retired after a 33 year career at Scotland Yard. In the last 10 years I have watched with increasing concern and anger the slow motion demolition of the age old constitutional independence of policing in the UK. When I joined in 1976 I was taught and embraced the concept and role of policing as being part of the judicial process and not of the governing executive. This position is crucial to ensuring that the best public protection interests of this proud nation are always carried first and not short term political opportunism and exploitation.

In the last 10 years I have witnessed and been a direct recipient of creeping political interference from the Home Office in operational affairs. This has been both inciduous  and directly threatening. This trend continues unabated and I fear the UK is sleep walking into the first signs of a possible police state in 25 years time unless the electorate and regulatory authorities such as the Home Affairs Select Committee take robust action.

I could easily write a dissertation on this of hundreds of pages but here are the headlines:

The signs:

  • Increasing reliance on specific funding streams for policing centred on issues of political interest rather than operational need and priority. The police cannot mount extra operations on top of basic patrolling and detection work without funding to pay for the extra resources, overtime and equipment. The government, knowing this have increasingly been very specific over what they will fund which has prevented priority operations being mounted and a complete distortion of response to “flavour of the month” issues
  • Direct Ministerial and Civil Servant threats to individual police officers to act in a way prejudicial to independent policing and to follow Home Office demands over methodology and outsourcing contracts. I have experienced this first hand with threats on my promotion and progression
  • The increasing reliance and devolvement of policing to the private security industry and non warranted personnel such as Police Community Support Officers. Without a fundamental examination of roles and responsibilities afforded by a Royal Commission this will not be resolved and will inevitably assist the Home Office in diluting and dividing the power and authority base of the police. Core policing functions MUST be defined. This can only be done by a truly knowledgeable and informed independent Royal Commission. No wonder this has been continually refused by the incumbent government. Its not in their interests.
  • The disbandment of police authorities without any clear debate or presentation of the succession plan for Police Commissioners. The small print makes it quite clear that the new appointees can be political party members carrying a full and explicit political agenda of their own. These single person appointees can hire and fire Chief Constables and are dedicated full time to sitting on the Chief Constables shoulder overseeing and ultimately directing his operational work. Some will do this well and some will be a dangerous destabilising point of influence pursuing short term goals. The electorate seem completely ignorant of the ramifications of this with a heavy post code lottery effect.
  • The increasing control and influence of HM Government over Chief Officer selection rather than a robust and transparent selection criteria based on leadership and management expertise.
  • The sudden inclusion of a Home Office preferred candidate for the top police inspectorate position. This person has very limited knowledge and experience of policing systems and demands but a ruthless focus on budgetry efficiency. The need for Operational effectiveness, as well, seems to have been conveniently forgotten in the equation balance.

If the good people of the UK want these changes fine but at the moment there has been a conspiracy of silence and muffled debate. Please wake up before it is too late. Seek the facts from the legislation detail itself and lobby your MP and Keith Vaz, Chairman of The Home Affairs Select Committee to robustly interrogate and challenge the executive machine.




2 Responses to Confronting Political Control of the Police

  1. Political correctness as well as the sudden and dramitic increase in the civilian workforce in my opinion has seriously contributed towards the valid points expressed above. Get rid of a lot of civilian staff especially those that deal directly with police officers welfare , give back those jobs now occuplied by the civilans that need police experience. Get rid of the PCSO’s and replace them with trainied police officers. Let the poolice do the job and do not treat them or the service like a commercial business

    • admin says:

      Hi Graham, So much has changed since 1976 when I joined. Teamwork, professionalism, public duty over individualism and being non political all seem to have declined dramatically. I have written repeatedly to my local MP Mark Field but he seems very supportive of all the changes. I have stopped voting Tory and await the inevitable melt down. Only a full blown national crisis which sweeps away much of the current political leadership will change things in the police. I half expect a PCSO to turn up to investigate a homicide soon!

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